“The numbers show us that the current Polish drug policy is not working,” says Adam Stasiak from the Polish Drug Policy Network.
“There are hundreds of cases, crimes committed under the influence of marijuana. (…) we have to say it out loud, marijuana is generally a drug, and it brings evil and death.” – This statement was made by Zbigniew Ziobro, Polish Minister of Justice, when debating medical marijuana in Poland. That day the parliament voted for medical marijuana. Interestingly only two deputies opposed the legislation, one of them being the Minister of Justice.
Drugs is a topic that has generated a vast number of myths around it. The best way to counter them is simply to use facts. Although statistics cannot present and explain the intersectionality of drug policy, I believe that there is power in numbers, and we should follow them in order to have a thorough understanding of the situation, to see what works and what has to be changed. That’s why we make statistics in the first place – if the numbers tell us that the current policy is not working at all, why stick to it? Oh well, I guess only the lawmakers know why. Hereby we would like to present to you the Polish drug policy in numbers.
Firstly let’s get back to that statement from the Minister of Justice. Whether his statement is true is substantial when it comes to the ratio legis behind the criminalisation of marijuana. One of the key arguments is that drug use causes significant social danger to the society and therefore its use should be penalised. However, many agree that this is understood as a danger to the public health instead of, as implied by the mentioned statement, a danger to another member of the society. So what do the Polish police say about crimes committed under the influence? According to the police statistics for the year 2012 (sadly the latest data provided) sobriety of the suspect was determined in every second case, that is 229,365 cases. Out of all of these cases 43,242 suspects were sober, which equals only 18.6%. Now let’s have a look at 3 different crimes – homicide, rape, and traffic offences, the first two of which are probably among the most widely condemned crimes in society:
– Homicide: 82% of suspects were intoxicated, 294 from alcohol, 2 from drugs
– Rape: 64.9% of suspects were intoxicated, 227 from alcohol, 2 from drugs
– Traffic offences: 91.8% of suspects were intoxicated, 136,643 from alcohol, 873 from drugs. 
It is clear that there is no evident link between drug consumption and criminality and that the above statement was false. There are however, thousands of people convicted for possession every year.
In the year 2016 there were 19,386 convictions under the Polish Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction. The possession of illegal substances was the offence in the majority of those cases, amounting to 13,142. Here it is important to note that 9,382 of these cases were qualified as standard offences and only 2,236 as of lesser significance. Why is this important? As a study from 2005 of cases in the Krakow courts  shows, 55% of convicts possessed less than 1g of a substance, and 79% of them possessed below 3g. However, the court qualified only 20.4% of all those cases as acts of lesser significance. That means that in many of those cases possessing less then 1g did not qualify as an offence of lesser significance. This could imply that most of the cases dealt with by the police, prosecutors, and courts are cases of possession of small amounts of drugs.
Out of all the crimes detected by the Polish police in 2016 drug related crimes amounted to 9.8%. That means that almost 1 in 10 crimes detected by the police was a drug related crime. It is obvious that many Polish institutions such as the police, the prosecutor’s office, and the courts spend thousands of hours working on drug related crimes. In a country where work overload is one of the main problems facing the justice system, it seems irrational to waste time on offenders possessing a small amount of drugs. Time is money of course. The Institute of Public Affairs estimated the costs related to the criminalisation of possession of drugs (and therefore the enforcement of article 62 of the Polish Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction) at around 18 million Euro .
All this action and time consumed would be justified if there were any measurable effects. As it is widely known and understood, the war on drugs is not only ineffective but has proved to be disastrous. In Poland, as in most countries, cannabis remains the most widely used drug. The data provided by the national focal point in Poland shows that in 2014 lifetime prevalence of cannabis use among all adults was estimated at 16.2% compared to 9.1% in 2006 . The situation is more alarming when it comes to students. According to the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) report of 2015 the European average was 18%, while in the case of Poland it was estimated at 25% .
It is time for lawmakers to draw conclusions from these numbers. But they do quite the opposite. In the wake of the surge of new psychoactive substances (NPS) they repeat the same mistake over and over again, penalising any new substance that hits the market. The effect? Poland, together with Estonia, has the highest rate – 10% – of students experimenting with NPS.
The answer to all those statistics should be an increased effort and resources put into education and harm reduction. The National Bureau for Drug Prevention, which reports on the realisation of such programs in Poland, recognises the need for such measures. As stated in their report in 2015, only 34% of communes organised or financed training for health care and social care professionals in addictive behaviour. They also strongly emphasised the need for training on organising evidence-based prevention programs, which were supported by merely 6% of all communes.
Statistics, unlike humans, are unbiased. These numbers show us that the current Polish drug policy is not working and that the prevalence of drug use is increasing. What we have got is an artificially established new type of offender – drug user people (possessors), which the justice system has to deal with. It takes a lot of time and work, but does nothing to reduce harm coming from drug use, or to combat addiction.
Lawyer, works in the Polish Drug Policy Network where he also acts in the Volunteer Centre aiding imprisoned drug user people.
 K. Krajewski, Sprawy o posiadanie narkotyków w świetle wyników badań akt sądowych, 2007
 The Institute of Public affairs, penalization of drug possession – Institutional action and costs, analysis and opinions, 2009.
 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2017), Poland, Country Drug Report 2017
 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (2015), ESPAD Report 2015