The fact that a person possesses illicit drugs should not mean they forfeit their human rights. Yet in most countries around the world, drug-dependent people and casual users are liable to suffer punishments out of proportion with the harm that their “crime” (possession of drugs) has caused to society. Furthermore, they are frequently unable to access the legal assistance which might help to reduce their sentence.

Poland’s harsh drug law -Article 62 of the Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction (ACDA), one of the most draconian in the European Union-, is largely responsible for this situation by criminalising the possession of any amount of an illicit substance. In fact, anyone found with drugs on their person may face up to three years' imprisonment, even if it is a first time offence. As a consequence, drug possession cases have increased by 1500 percent since the law was introduced. In 2009, for example, almost 30,000 people were arrested for possessing a small quantity of illicit drugs. Polish prisons are overcrowded, and at the same, far from being drug free.

On December 9, 2011, the new Law on Counteracting Drug Addiction came into force, formally giving prosecutors the option to drop legal proceedings if the level of social harm of the criminal act is very low. In practice, however, in all the cases covered by the report, the prosecutors invited those accused of drug possession to voluntarily accept punishment, rather than request the discontinuance of criminal proceedings.

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