‘Soft drug’ legalization law may be withdrawn

Greece may withdraw a bill allowing the possession of small amounts of ?soft? drugs for personal use because of opposition from two parties that support Lucas Papademos?s interim government.

Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou said in Parliament on Thursday that he would postpone taking the bill on drug use and possession to a plenary debate in Athens, scheduled to begin on February 7, after conservative New Democracy and right-wing LAOS party lawmakers said they will vote against it.

The bill, which was introduced in September and passed through a parliamentary committee last week, was supported by PASOK socialist party members, the Greek Communist Party and the Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA.

Plans to change the law stem partly from a need to ease overcrowding in prisons. According to Justice Ministry data, 40 percent of the prisoners now held in Greek jails were involved in drug-related crimes.

The bill would categorize drug-trafficking cases according to the gravity of the criminal act, legalize the use and possession of drugs for personal use and replace imprisonment of addicts with attendance at rehabilitation facilities, documents released on the Greek Parliament?s website show. The distinction between ?soft? and ?hard? drugs was also discussed in the parliamentary committee.

Several European countries, including the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal, allow the use and possession of small amounts of soft drugs for personal use, punishing users with a warning or a fine in an effort to treat drug addicts as ?patients? rather than ?criminals,? according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Trafficking larger amount of drugs is outlawed in most European countries. [Bloomberg]