criminalization of Cannabis users in Slovenia
Editorial board and authors (A-Z): Friškič Samuel, Kohek Maja, Nolimal Dušan *, Pravdič Zdravko, Radišič Božidar. Design (A-Z): Poldauf Simon, Žgur Vita For the content of this publication are responsible its authors. Publisher: ONEJ - Association of Prekmurje Initiative, Trg Zmage 4, Murska Sobota, Slovenia Publication year: 2014 Electronic source. Website: http://onej.info/
The views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for public health Slovenia (NIJZ).
Table of Content
Ratio between felony and misdemeanors in individual police departments in Slovenia ……………………………………………………………………………………………..………….
Individual cases of criminalization of recreational drug users in Pomurje (NE of Slovenia) ..………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Cultivation and use of Cannabis as self-medication in Slovenia ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
The recent response of decision makers and medical experts in Slovenia ...…………………………………………………………………………………………………..…………………………….…
The following report 1 is a product of ONEJ – Association of Prekmurje Initiative in collaboration with Cannabis users, patients, doctors, lawyers, judges and other experts from Slovenia. It should be seen as an additional argument against enforcement of prohibitive laws, and it should offer a short insight into different realities that we face in the field of drugs, especially Cannabis, in the Republic of Slovenia.
All statistical data was collected in the last years from the official police reports in individual police departments: http://www.policija.si/index.php/policijske-uprave/pu-murska-sobota/statistika http://www.policija.si/index.php/statistika
The substance is always the cultural values invested in it, and this applies whether the values be those of the police, the pharmacologist or the user. - M. McDonald, 1994
Introduction We are concerned about the bad effects of the Cannabis prohibition, increased repression approaches and related harms to Cannabis users in Slovenia and probably in some other EU countries. It is our opinion that the prohibition of Cannabis and many other drugs already had gone beyond the bounds of reason and often incriminates individuals that are in reality not criminals. Also, there is the ever increasing number of new psychoactive substances in parallel with increasing of repression ("prohibition increased drug use"). The increased repression only encourages more organized crime and overburdens police, courts, and the penal system. The repression had already encouraged many drug users and other young people to see the drug laws as unimportant, instead of something good and protecting. And finally, the international research had shown the value medicinal Cannabis in relieving suffering associated with some terminal conditions. Yet, despite science, prohibition laws in Slovenia still prohibit the use of the Cannabis plant. Such prohibition will do far more harm to far more people than Cannabis use ever could. In Slovenia we have today more than 200.000 Cannabis users and each year we have around 2,000 recorded felonies involving Cannabis. 2 Most of them end with the verdict "guiltyâ&#x20AC;?. On the other hand we have for example only 70 recorded felonies per year involving corruption in case of which only few of them actually end with the verdict â&#x20AC;&#x153;guiltyâ&#x20AC;?. 3 Each year the police seize more and more Cannabis, plantations or laboratories. The amount of seized Cannabis (in kg) more than doubled in the last years. (Figure 1)
Figure 1 - Nolimal D., et al.(2014): Linking research in public health with policy and practice: The Cannabis Case, National institute for public health. Introductory lecture at the seminar Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes from the Demystifying Cannabis series in Ljubljana, ONEJ 29.03.2014. Source: Law enforcement statistics
Ministry for internal affairs, 1993-2012.
Commission for the prevention of corruption, 2005-11.
We have a constant of more than 20% of drug users imprisoned, most frequently Cannabis users. (Figure 2)
Figure 2 - Nolimal D., et al.(2014): Linking research in public health with policy and practice: The Cannabis Case, National institute for public health. Introductory lecture at the seminar Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes from the Demystifying Cannabis series in Ljubljana, ONEJ 29.03.2014. Source: Prison statistics
An estimated EUR 9,790,530.72 was spent on the solution of drug-related problems in Slovenia only in the year 2012. 4 In the last 10 years we recorded more than 78,900 violations of law in the field of drugs and in comparison to the European average, a Slovenian Cannabis user experiences three times more repression what is the consequence of open but too loosely defined laws, “outdated socialistic mentality of the judges”, police, prosecutors and medical experts and “apologetic positivism”. 5 According to EMCDDA report we have one of the highest rates of Cannabis seizures or recorded felonies and misdemeanours amongst the European countries. We argue that these high rates are the indications of excessive penalization of drug users rather than of successfulness of law enforcement or high crime rates. (Figure 3)
EMCDDA, Report on the drug situation 2013 of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana 2013.
http://www.politikis.si/?p=126409 (June 2014).
Figure 3 - Nolimal D., et al. (2014): Linking research in public health with policy and practice: The Cannabis Case, National institute for public health (NIJZ). Introductory lecture at the seminar Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes from the Demystifying Cannabis series in Ljubljana, ONEJ 29.03.2014. Source: EMCDDA 2007-2011
Already in 1999 the Republic of Slovenia decriminalized total drug use, but some statistical data with a deepened analysis and especially the reality of users tells us a different story. The harm that is experienced by Cannabis users in Slovenia because of rigid, unjust and irrational structures is far greater than the harm that could be done by using Cannabis.
Ratio between felony and misdemeanors in individual police departments in Slovenia According to the individual official police statistics more than 50% of all criminal investigations are in the field of drugs (mostly Cannabis: at least 70%). Alarming are the individual cases which show a clear criminalization of drug users in Slovenia, especially Cannabis users. Each year there are more and more cases where drug users are convicted of trafficking. This is evident also from the police statistics where a couple of police departments stand out with their inverted ratio. While the average ratio between felonies and misdemeanours related to drugs in the EU goes for 18% of felonies (trafficking) and 82% of misdemeanours (possession) 6, there is quite a different situation in Slovenia: its average is 30% felonies and 70% misdemeanours. (Figure 4)
Figure 4 - Nolimal D., et al. (2014): Linking research in public health with policy and practice: The Cannabis Case, National institute for public health. Introductory lecture at the seminar Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes from the Demystifying Cannabis series in Ljubljana, ONEJ 29.03.2014. Source: Law enforcement statistics.
What is more, our attention was particularly attracted by the ratio which was recorded in Police Administration Unit Murska Sobota (PAU MS). There is an average of 70% of felonies (KZ-1 7) and only 30% of misdemeanours (ZPPPD 8). (Figure 5 and 6)
Figure 5 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Ratio between criminal (KZ-1) and misdemeanours (ZPPPD) according to police statistics in Slovenia between 2003-2010. Source: Ministry for internal affairs, Police.
Figure 6 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Average ratio of felonies (KZ-1) and misdemeanours (ZPPPD) in the field of drugs per 1,000 inhabitants 2003-2010. Source: Ministry for internal affairs, Police.
eng. Criminal Code (slov. Kazenski zakonik KZ-1).
eng. Law on Production and Trafficking of Illicit Drugs (slov. Zakon o proizvodnji in preprodaji prepovedanih drog ZPPPD).
Another worrying piece of information is that PAU MS has recorded the highest rates of felonies in the field of drugs in Slovenia. The Slovenian average is 5 felonies (KZ-1) and 9 misdemeanours (ZPPPD) per 1,000 inhabitants, but the average of PAU MS is alarming 10 criminal felonies and only 4 misdemeanours (ZPPPD) per 1,000 inhabitants. (Figures 7 and 8)
Figure 7 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Average number of felonies and misdemeanors in the field of drugs per policeman 2003- 2010 . Source: Ministry for internal affairs, Police.
Figure 8 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Number of felonies (KZ-1) and misdemeanors (ZPPPD) in PAU MS 2002-2011. Source: Ministry for internal affairs, Police.
Figure 8 tells us a rather meaningful story. Due to higher (meaning, artificially constructed) amount of crimes related to drugs, PAU MS in 2010 even set up a special group in the CAP-PAU Murska Sobota that was meant for fighting against drug trafficking and prosecuting Cannabis users in particular. But one can suspect that PAU MS substituted the absence of felonies by handling misdemeanours as felonies. This is actually beneficial for the courts and prosecutors as they increase their work successfulness by handling them. It is evident that in the year 2005 there was no record of misdemeanours in the field of drugs, but on the other hand there was an outstanding increase of felonies. 10
Individual cases of criminalization of recreational drug users in Pomurje (NE of Slovenia)
Not only some individual police departments criminalize drug users, but also the judges and prosecutors play an important role in the criminalization of drug users. If the given statistics are not convincing enough, we would also like to add some actual cases that will further affirm our statements. We can only report about individual cases processed by the District Court in Murska Sobota, Celje and Maribor as we do not have information about the others, but suspect similar practices also at other police departments in Slovenia (and EU). 9 1. The following case could take the de minimis non curat lex principle into consideration as an “alternative method of enforcing criminal sanctions”: A 17 years old boy was convicted on 4 months prison sentence with 1 year on probation because of possession of 2,6 g of Cannabis (dried buds). To the police officer he looked suspicious as he was sitting on the side walk in front of a grocery shop. During the investigation an official found 2,6 g of Cannabis (dried buds), which was enough to convict him for drug trafficking and “force” him into a treatment program (in that way he was able to lower the sentence). Here might also be a clue for the explanation of high rates of Cannabis users in treatment programmes in Slovenia and all over EU. Due to this stigma the mentioned “minor delinquent” will be suffering all his life. He is deprived of travelling to some countries, he cannot strive after certain job opportunities, etc. These consequences will have a much more destructive impact on this boy's life than the harm that could potentially be caused by smoking of Cannabis. 10 2. At the end of April 2014 the PAU Celje together with PAU Murska Sobota (cca 300 law enforcement authorities) carried out an extensive investigation where 47 Slovenian citizens (aged between 20 and 45) were accused of committing 50 felonies related to the cultivation of Cannabis and to trafficking. With classical methods and undercover work the authorities investigated one legally established on-line shop which was selling supplies for gardening and eavesdropped on his customers. During the investigation of one of the involved individuals, the officials found only a smaller amount of Cannabis (for personal use). Nevertheless they arrested him and he has been in detention already for two and a half months without any clear evidence of crime he was accused of. At present another 2 individuals are imprisoned in Murska Sobota. Their stories are similar. The authorities found Cannabis plants at their homes and are of the opinion that both were growing them for further trafficking. 11 Again they don’t have any clear evidences for such accusations. 9
For all reported cases we have all documentation that supports our statements and can translate and deliver them subsequently if needed.
District court in Murska Sobota, case number: UP-415/14
District court in Murska Sobota, case number: I Kpr 16666/2014.
According to the official report the authorities prevented those 'criminals' to earn (only) 150.000â&#x201A;Ź on the black market. 12 We are having a dispute about these cases because we have to consider the seriousness of the supposed crimes and compare them to the harm such persecutions can have not only for the individual, but in a broader economic and socio-cultural context. Furthermore, these young individuals are perceived as criminals and in such 'one-way' perspective treated by the law enforcement. We argue that the prosecutors and judges should process the individual not with a narrow focus, but consider the broader contexts.
Cultivation and use of Cannabis as self-medication in Slovenia Another concern for us are people using Cannabis for medical purpose. Each year there are more and more cases where police investigate Slovenian citizens about felonies related to Cannabis such as drug trafficking or the cultivation of Cannabis, and treat them as criminals, where in fact they are growing it for self-medication or to medicate a family member. According to some media reports almost half of cancer patients use Cannabis (oil, dispensaries or dried plant) as self-medication in order to treat side effects of chemotherapy or other. There are several reasons for self-supply of Cannabis. Firstly, people want to know what they have got. The black market is an unreliable source considering the quality of drugs. Secondly, people want to eliminate the chances of having problems with the authorities and avoid dealers. Indoors laboratories are an effective and safe option for a lot of them. In the long-term it is also a cheaper option if compared to prices of Cannabis or its oil on the black market or in comparison to pharmaceutical products. The case of J.P. is an example of the risks that people can face if they produce or use Cannabis as self-medication. On June 11., 2014 the KrĹĄko district court sentenced J.P. for cultivation of Cannabis to 8 months imprisonment and to two years parole because he was growing 8 Cannabis plants in his garden in order to produce Cannabis oil to treat his wife's multiple sclerosis and his son's diabetes. 13 We are again having a dispute that in such cases the seriousness of the supposed crimes should be taken into consideration and they should be compared to the harm and to the consequences a persecution can have for the individual, his family and society.
http://www.policija.si/index.php/component/content/article/35-sporocila-za-javnost/72601-policija-jezakljuila-obseno-preiskavo-s-podroja-prepovedanih-drog-?tmpl=component&print=1&page=&lang= (June 2014).
District court KrĹĄko, case number: II K 53346/2012-37 and the complete documentation II K 53346/2012.
The recent response of decision makers and medical experts in Slovenia The government officials and decision makers are well aware of upper mentioned cases and recently they even changed the Decree on Illegal Drugs which now allows patient to use THC products, but this reform still does not regulate medical use of the Cannabis plant which is most commonly used in Slovenia. The government does not take into consideration the actual situation or the needs of individuals and their demands, but enforces only minimal changes in the Decree in which the above mentioned cases are further on left in the illegal frame. Our advice for more rightful and effective drug policy is to regulate both pharmaceuticals and the Cannabis plant (also for self-medication). Regulation in accordance with the socio-cultural situation and other aspects is the most reasonable thing to be done in order to avoid unnecessary incrimination of medical Cannabis users. We are trying to persuade the authorities that we need more deepened research and the more we are 'diving' into it, more and more questions seem to be appearing. This is only one of the reasons why we should finally get over the old prejudice and start reacting to the issues we are facing to create a safe environment for Cannabis (drug) users. We cannot eliminate drug consumption, but we can eliminate the harm of prohibition, which is far greater than Cannabis itself. Also recreational use should not be incriminated by state officials. It is unacceptable that at this very moment several Slovenian citizens are being imprisoned because of having grown or possessed Cannabis for their own use (without any evidence of trafficking). Also the attitude towards minor offenders should be more constructive with other methods than intimidation and 'forced' drug treatment programs. If we further continue searching for the perfect drug policy, nothing will ever be change, but if we act just a little bit bolder, and if we are eager to experiment, we can develop far more effective approach in tackling drug related issues.
Current drug policy in Slovenia despite its prohibitive attitude still enables the adolescents an easy access to drugs; a flourishing organized crime, black market and corruption; too many sentenced and imprisoned Slovenian citizens (non-criminals); violation of human rights; and rising economical, legislative, moral, medical and social costs. Cannabis is not illegal because it is dangerous, but it can be dangerous because it is illegal. 14 Even in Slovenia, where the legislation appears to be progressive, the outcome of a prosecution depends on the state official, his individual preferences, state of mind or worldliness leaving too much space open for interpretation. Drugs are decriminalized on the declarative level, but with no specific limits which could guide the police authorities, judges or prosecutors when making a decision whether a case is a felony or a misdemeanour. The fact that the Cannabis plant stayed (after the recent reform of the Decree of Illicit Drugs) in the first group of illicit drugs that cannot be used in medicine and the false notion that Cannabis is a dangerous and harmful drug, influences the judge's decision in individual cases. No one is considering the 'side-effects' of prohibition that destroys peoplesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; lives. On one hand the government allows the use of THC for medicinal purposes, but on the other they fight individual self-suppliers and persecute them as criminals. This is not an effective method of harm reduction but 'fuelling the fire' in a time of a global economic crisis where increasing repression or discriminatory attitudes towards drug users undermine harm reduction, drug treatment, social re-integration and the potential for recovery. We witness the consequences on a regular basis thus, we would like to encourage EMCDDA to be attentive on what is happening in Slovenia (and other EU countries), take our appeal with high priority and help us develop indicators of the harmful side effects of the drug prohibition policy, in particular in the case of Cannabis, to contribute to a much more comprehensive, evidence based and more human approach towards Cannabis and other psychoactive substances users.
Cena prohibicije drog (eng. The price of drug prohibition), 1993.
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