Slovakia: The Next EU Country to Decriminalize Drug Use?
Slovakia may be the next country decriminalizing or depenalizing the possession of marijuana for personal use in Europe. The Czech Republic has effectively decriminalized drug use for several years now. After a decade of harsh criminalization, Poland reformed its drug law in 2011, giving prosecutors discretion not to punish drug users. The new Slovak government is likely to move in the same direction this year. Richard Sulík, head of the liberal SaS party, the smaller coalition partner in the government, announced after the June elections that he aims to decriminalize marijuana use. The prime minister, Robert Fico, whose party gives the government its majority, is against the legalization of marijuana, but he is open to the decriminalization of drug use.
“In Slovakia we have a special attitude to politics,” wrote the prime minister, Robert Fico in his blogpost on April 2. “When a problem arises, we make it a criminal offence and we think that the threat of criminal punishment will automatically solve the problem, though the solution lies in something completely different. I am afraid that the use of the criminal justice system is a dysfunctional and ineffective way to fight marijuana use.”
Current Slovakian drug legislation is among the harshest in Europe. The Criminal Code, amended in 2005, threatens those who possess small amounts of drugs with up to 3 years' imprisonment. A 'small amount' is defined as a maximum three times the amount of a “usual dose”. For underage offenders, the maximum punishment is 15 months. Mr. Fico regrets that his government supported harsh punishments in 2005. He claims that as a professional lawyer he has never believed in the deterrent effect of criminalization. He points out that Slovakian prisons are already full of offenders, and at a time of financial crisis the way forward is not to send more there – but to find alternatives.
Posted by Peter Sarosi