Russian Drugs Tsar Seeks Tougher Laws

Russia should criminalize drug use, confiscate land used for the cultivation of cannabis and close the Central Asian border in order to combat drug trafficking, the head of the Federal Drug Control Service, Viktor Ivanov, said Wednesday.

Ivanov, speaking in the State Duma, also welcomed deputies to a cautionary exhibit of wax figures of prominent drug users like grunge musician Kurt Cobain and John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman.

“Today, drugs are a more widespread crime than theft,” Ivanov said in a speech to the Duma.

Investigators charged about 120,000 people in connection with illegal drug trafficking last year, he said, Interfax reported.

[Read “Chronicles From Moscow: The Drug Situation in Russia” on Cannabis Culture]

Ivanov said he backed an idea offered by a deputy to reintroduce the Soviet-era practice of criminalizing drug use. But Ivanov added that users should have the option of undergoing treatment instead of serving jail time.

He also said a lot of abandoned land is used to cultivate cannabis and called for the owners of the land, who often claim to not be aware of its condition, to be held legally liable.

Ivanov supported a suggestion by deputies to employ students to destroy cannabis fields.

Ivanov said the current law suits drug traffickers, who can freely cross Central Asian borders as long as they hold Russian passports, easily obtainable by Soviet citizens under international agreements signed in the 1990s.

“More that 50 percent of the prominent foreign drug traffickers arrested in Russia had Russian passports, which serves as a perfect pass inside the country,” Ivanov said.

He also called for restricted access to medication that can be used to produce a synthetic analogue of heroin. Ivanov said such medication, freely available at pharmacies, should be prescription-only.

The Federal Drug Control Service puts the number of drug users in Russia at about 2.5 million, with 30,000 dying each year of drug-related causes. The economic losses are estimated at 3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

A drug user can recruit up to 15 people during his or her lifetime, Ivanov said.

Ivanov also opened an exhibition of wax sculptures depicting drug users, including celebrities such as late rock stars Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Freddie Mercury of Queen fame, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Among the sculptures is a statue of John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman with the commentary, “He smoked cannabis as a teenager.”

– Article from The Moscow Times.