EuropeanDrugPolicyInitiative, December 14 2011, by Agnieszka Sieniawska
Last week, Nobel laureates from Poland - Wislawa Szymborska and Lech Walesa called for change in the field of drug policy. The report made by the Global Commission on Drug Policy inspired the former President of Poland - Aleksander Kwaśniewski - to sign a letter with a statement that the global drug war has failed and the time for decriminalization, treatment and prevention has come.
In Poland the situation has changed in favor of a rational drug policy recently. During the last parliamentary elections a new party – the Movement of Palikot was elected. It advocates depenalization of drug possession in small quantities intended for personal use. On December 9th, the new liberal drug law came into force. Moreover, in the region of Gdansk, where NGOs has been fighting for access to substitution therapy for 8 years, the first methadone maintenance program was opened.
The new drug law states that people arrested with small amounts of drugs for personal use could not be prosecuted. Prosecutors and courts will be obligated to investigate the circumstances of each drug user and refer them - depending on their needs - to education or treatment. This is the first step in the direction recommended by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
Watch the HCLU's 13 minutes movie on the Polish drug reform with English subtitles!
Poland Has A New Drug Law!
The amendment to the Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction came into force on December 9th, 2011. According to the new rules, the prosecutor will be able to dismiss the criminal charges if the offender possessed only small amount of drugs for personal use and he finds that punishment is not necessary. The amendment also provides increased criminal liability for drug dealers - up to 12 years imprisonment. For that occasion, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament (the Seym) organized a press conference. Participants of the press conference were: Ryszard Kalisz - Chairman of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Robert Biedron - Vice Chairman of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Iwona Guzowska - Committee on Social Policy and Family, Civic Platform, Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch - Director of the International Drug Policy Programme, Open Society Foundations, Barbara Wilamowska - coordinator of the National Drug Prevention Program, Ministry of Justice, Agnieszka Sieniawska – President of the Polish Drug Policy Network. Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch from the Open Society Foundations said “the amendment is part of the ongoing global debate on drug policy reform supported among others by Lech Walesa, Aleksander Kwasniewski, Wislawa Szymborska, Javier Solana, and Jimmy Carter. I am pleased that Poland is moving towards rationality, rather than remain with the drug law from 2000 resulting from fears and prejudices”.
A video from the conference:
Polish Public Opinion Poll About Legalization
A few days ago, one of the Polish public television chanels, TVN 24 conducted a public opinion poll on their website. Poles were asked about the idea of legalizing marijuana possession for personal use. On December 12th 2011, 67% of respondents answered yes, while only 32% said no - and about 1% of respondents were undecided. These results show that the public attitudes to drug policy liberalization are changing rapidly in Poland.
Report of the Ombudsman for Addicts Program
People with drug problems are often in situations that expose them to rights violations. These people may not be aware of their rights and how to respond to abuse. Therefore, in June 2009, the JUMP 93 Association and the Polish Drug Policy Network established the institution of the Ombudsman for Addicts. The Ombudsman Program is conducted jointly by the authors of the report: Agnieszka Sieniawska, lawyer, and Jacek Charmast, one of the founders of the program. In the beginning, the Ombudsman Program only provided legal advice. This is not a traditionally assigned role of the ombudsman, but our surveys indicated a great need for free legal aid for people who use drugs in our country. We also felt that the daily, practical activities will build a solid empirical base for the program.
The amount and type of the possessed drug, the characteristics of the offender and the circumstances of the arrest have an impact on the legal consequences. In almost all cases (two exceptions- MDMA, amphetamine), customers of the Ombudsman program possessed small amounts of marijuana, which can be considered consumer doses - from 0.2 to 5 grams for personal use.
Detention is often used against the offenders who are suspected to violate article 62 (possession for personal use). In all cases, drug possession in small quantities were detected during routine police checks at dance clubs, in parks or in cars by the roadside, usually in the evenings. In addition, drug offenders were in almost all cases (2 exceptions) men aged between 19 and 27. The police often arrests drug offenders in order to improve their crime statistics.
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