András Istvánffy, leader of a small opposition party, has been arrested by the police for smoking a joint in public, as a protest against marijuana prohibition
Mr. Istvánffy, the leader of 4K, a small extra-parliamentary social-democratic party, invited the media to witness his action at the office of NAV, the Hungarian tax authority. He paid a symbolic tax of one gramme of marijuana and smoked a joint in public, to protest against the laws that make marijuana illegal. He said he is not a regular marijuana smoker himself, and has only smoked a few joints in the last ten years. “I'm not doing this because I'm personally passionate about marijuana, but as an act of civil disobedience, because the hypocrisy has become intolerable,” he said. “I don't want to live in a world where, if you drink a glass of spirits on a Friday evening, you can still be considered a good Hungarian citizen, but if my friend smokes a joint he is a criminal.”
The party leader was soon arrested by policemen, who escorted him to the police station, where he was required to provide a urine sample. This is routine procedure in drug-related cases. He was released a few hours later. If he tests positive for cannabis use, he will be prosecuted. The law provides for him to be able to attend a six-month outpatient program as an alternative to criminal sanctions. If he completes the program, the criminal charges against him will be dropped. The government amended the Criminal Code in July, making penalties tougher, so if he is arrested again within the next two years, he will become liable to criminal sanctions, including up to two years' imprisonment.
Last month, the party organised a press conference at the Ministry of Home Affairs, where Mr. Istvánffy displayed a banner listing seven arguments for legalisation: It generates tax revenue for the state, cuts the profit of the mafia, separates the cannabis market from other drugs, does away with criminal sanctions against people who do no harm to society, enables the police to focus on real criminals, makes cannabis products safer, and makes marijuana available for medical use. The party proposed the introduction of a similar regulatory model to that which has been adopted by the US state of Colorado, where adults can legally purchase cannabis for personal use, with the state controlling the cultivation, procession and distribution of cannabis products. Some professionals, including the HCLU, agree with the agenda to reform drug laws but criticised the party for distributing stickers with the controversial message “Pot is not a drug”, saying that this argument is simply wrong and misleading.
Posted by Peter Sarosi