Bulgaria: On the Dark Side of Drug Policy

October 16, 2012

The government plans to introduce harsher penalties against drug offenders in Bulgaria - watch our movie and sign the petition!

In our European Drug Policy Initiative (EDPI) we help NGOs to promote evidence-informed services and interventions in the field of drug policy by providing tools (videos, research etc.) for advocacy. One of our key partners is the Initiative for Health Foundation, the first NGO to have introduced harm reduction services in Bulgaria. Our video advocacy team traveled to Sofia to produce two movies: one on government plans to make drug laws more restrictive, the other on the pioneering work of the Initiative with street drug users. Please watch the first of our videos – we have prepared a shorter version for those who have limited time!

The  short version of the movie - you can turn on the English subtitles at the bottom of the frame!

The full version of the Movie - you can turn on the English subtitles at the bottom of the frame!

Bulgaria has one of the harshest drug policies in the European Union: Possession of any quantity of illegal drugs is a crime, punishable by one to five years' imprisonment. According to current legislation, the judge has discretion to punish minor offenders with a fine. In a country of 8 million inhabitants, 800 people are imprisoned every year because of drug-related charges. Prisons are not a way of keeping people away of drugs. According to estimates by the prison authorities, more than 20 percent of the prison population are dependent on drugs – and many of them develop problematic use patterns only after being put in prison. Treatment opportunities are very limited in the country due to scarce financial resources; many services that are now commonplace in Western-Europe are still not available here.

According to our current knowledge on what works in the drug field, the best policy option for decision makers would be to decriminalize drug possession for personal use and improve the public health and social care systems; politicians, however, often tend to choose populist solutions, instead of effective policy responses. The government has drafted an amendment to the Criminal Code that would result in increasing sanctions against people who use drugs. Please sign the petition against the planned new legislation!

Posted by Peter Sarosi