By Phillip Smith
The Greek government is proposing to decriminalize the possession of drugs under a bill sent to parliament by Justice Minister Miltadis Papioannou, the British web site Talking Drugs reported this week. Under the bill, drug possession would be decriminalized as long as the drug use does not affect others.
The bill is a response to continuing high drug overdose numbers–more than 300 deaths a year in recent years–and high levels of imprisonment. Some 40% of Greek prisoners are doing time for drug or drug-related offenses.
Under the proposed bill, drug possession for personal use would qualify only as "misconduct" instead of a more serious criminal offense. The decriminalization provision would also apply to people growing marijuana for their personal use.
The bill would also guarantee the right to drug treatment, including for people currently imprisoned. People deemed "addict offenders" by the courts would be provided treatment instead of being jailed.
Under the "treatment not jail" approach, addicts would be admitted to an approved treatment program for detoxification, then granted deferred prosecution and conditional release under a drug monitoring program. It is unclear what would happen to addicts who relapse while in the program.
The bill does not legalize the sale of drugs, which would remain a felony offense. Like other decriminalization schemes, the measure would make life easier for drug users, but would do little to reduce the deleterious effects of the black market in proscribed substances.