Decriminalising drugs as a basis for humane and effective drug policy

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INTRODUCTION

In the past few decades, the use of drugs has been constantly on the rise throughout the world, despite the restrictive and prohibitive drug policies. Such traditional approach of prohibition and punishment for possession and use of drugs creates social injustice at individual level, as well as public- health problems and high social costs at macro level. The Republic of North Macedonia does not differ from the above approach with regards to the use of drugs. Thus, the Criminal Code prohibits organising, production, processing and selling of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors. 1 In addition, the possession of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is prohibited, as well as their further sale, transport or mediation in selling drugs. The Criminal Code provisions do not prohibit possession for personal use, however there is a well-established practice of the institutions, such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Public Prosecutor’s Office or the courts, where persons convicted for possession of illegal substances are the very persons that have possessed the substances for their personal use (Boshkova, Tupanchevski 2014).

Such attitude of the criminal-justice system towards people who use drugs contributes to their further marginalisation, violation of their rights and limits their possibility to receive appropriate rights protection in front of the competent institutions. The documents and activities dealing with implementation of the drug policy at national level lack continuation (they are project based) and are inconsistent, which creates chaos in their implementation and effects. For instance,TheNationalDrugStrategy2014–20202 doesnotforeseelegalisation of cannabis for medical purposes, and this was done solely by a political decision; while the minimal possession quantities have not been defined, despite the fact this was foreseen in the National Drug Strategy 2006 – 2012.3

The aim of this measure was to respect the rights of people who use drugs, not to be detained or imprisoned for possession for personal use and to lower the costs related to police actions and court processes. However, the practice of detaining people possessing drugs for personal use and their punishment still continues to this day.

Many countries in the world have decided to apply new solutions, i.e. to create own decriminalization models; for all drug types – such as Portugal, or for certain drug types – such as The Netherlands, Uruguay etc. These modules could be the basis for identifying and providing solutions for improving the policies and the practice of the relevant institutions towards people who use drugs in the Republic of North Macedonia. They deal not only with abolition of the criminal persecution, but they also provide a wider perspective for reform of the overall drug – regulation system.

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