Hundreds of people marched on the streets of Budapest to demonstrate for the National Drug Strategy and against the criminalization of drug users.Hundreds of people marched on the streets of Budapest to demonstrate for the National Drug Strategy and against the criminalization of drug users.
The call for the demonstration came from a local NGO, the Hemp Seed Association, which is known as the main organizer of the Civil Obedience Movement (read our article). One week before the demonstration the Association organized a round table discussion with several professionals (sociologist, policemen, lawyer, social worker) on how prejudices distort social attitudes and views on drug users. The aim of the demonstration was to warn politicans in the eve of the parlamentary elections not to neglect the human rights of citizens who use illicit drugs responsibly. People gathered in front of the Central District Court of Budapest on Sunday afternoon. As Balázs Dénes, executive director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union explained in his speech the organizers chosed this location to protest against the verdicts of this court against the activists of the Civil Obedience Movement (read our article) who did not pose any threat to the society. „We think it is not acceptable to criminalize people for an offence which has no victim,” said Mr. Dénes.
Balázs Dénes (HCLU) is speaking to the crowd
Demonstrators march to the Office of MPs
High security by the police
Péter Juhász with his banner: "Don’t prohibit, regulate!"
Following the speech the crowd marched to the Office of the Members of the Parliament escorted by hundreds of policemen. Demonstrators waved banners like „I am not a criminal”, „Vote for your drug policy”, „Who represent us in parlament?”, „Don’t prohibit, regulate”. Péter Juhász, vice-president of the Association said that politicans do not respect the real interests of society in creating drug policies but their own political interests. He refered to the National Drug Strategy, accepted by a full consensus of all parliamentary parties in 2000, which has never been implemented because of the lack of financial and political committment. He pointed out that the National Drug Strategy does not require the criminalization of drug users but the improvement of science-based prevention, treatment and harm reduction services. Mr. Juhász quoted a recent report of a Hungarian parliamentary committee on drugs, which emphasized that drug issue is not a criminal or medical problem but a social probem. As a final accord representatives of the Association delivered 386 petition letters to the future members of parlament in which they are urged to cooperate with professionals and involve drug users in decision making. Despite the fears of police no counter-demonstration disturbed the march and the the demonstration was peaceful.
The „Special Committee on Preparing the Harmonization of the National Drug Strategy with the European Union Drug Strategy” was mandated by the Parliament in April 2005 to interview all keyholders of Hungarian drug policy and identify the main successes and barriers of the implentation of the National Drug Strategy. The report of the Committee (released in the beginning of March) points out that the National Drug Strategy is fully in line with the ballanced approach of the drug policy of the European Union: it stresses the need for science-based prevention and harm reduction programs and limits the scope of the criminal justice system to supply reduction. However, the implementation of the strategy faces serious barriers, especially the lack of financial resources and political committment. The Committee opposes the distinction between licit and illicit drugs in the field of prevention and harm reduction and calls for the creation of a National Institute on Drug Use with a standard professional scope. The report also calls the government to organize a multidisciplinary conference to advise political decision makers on the reform of the drug-related articles of the Penal Code. The documents states that „drug problem is a social issue – not solely and not even mainly criminal or medical problem – so the managment of this problem should be social as well.”
Article: Péter Sárosi
Photos: Hemp Seed Association