The annual report of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) provides a comprehensive overview of the recent drug policy situation in Hungary.The annual report of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) provides a comprehensive overview of the recent drug policy situation in Hungary.
The 85 pages report (issued today, available in Hungarian only) aims to tell off popular myths and prejudices about drug use and demonstrates the failure of the official data collection system and legislation to identify and tackle drug problems.
The main findings of the report are the following:
· The clear majority of drug offenders are simple users (91 percent), younger than 30 years old (97 percent), much more educated than the general offenders, has no previous criminal record (appr. 70 percent) and uses marijuana only (more than 50 percent of cases). The repression of criminal law is directed primarily against otherwise law abiding young citizens with stable social background – while the increasing number of drug users show that the deterrent effect of the law is only a dream.
· The law allows drug users to participate in a 6 months preventive-therepautic program as an alternative of imprisonment but this does not exempt them from the negative consequences of arrest and criminal prosecution. In addition, most of the people refered to treatment by the criminal justice system are occasional marijuana users who do not need any medical or psycho-social help, especially not coerced treatment. This „alternative treatment” violates basic ethical rules of medicine and creates a financial interest for professionals to maintain people in treatment in no need – but it drains resources from live-saving services targeting problem drug users. The sophisticated and obscure legislation related to „alternative treatment” leads to anomalies in our criminal justice system which violate the constitutional requirement of norm transparency.
· Bad policy response is the result of the distorted conception of drug problems created by the official data collection system, which is incapable to provide a realistic picture on illicit drug use. The official statistics build an artificial wall between legal and illegal drugs but fail to differentiate the problematic and non-problematic patterns of illicit drug use. The comprehensive analysis of scientific data reveals how distorsions recreate themselves in the data collection and the criminal justice systems.
According to the opinion of the HCLU these facts justify the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. We hope this report can contribute to the recent discussion of drug law reform by political decision makers.