Drug paralysis

Five deputies signed the interparty proposal for the decriminalization of drug use and the classification of drugs according to the harm they cause – all (Stavros Benos and Spyros Vouyias from PASOK, Petros Tatoulis from New Democracy, Maria Damanaki and Fotis Kouvelis from the Left Coalition) with the express backing of Foreign Minister George Papandreou. Their proposal, regardless of whether one deems it correct or not, touched upon one of the most acute social issues in our country and abroad. And yet yesterday’s debate, during which the proposal was rejected, failed to attract more than 10 deputies. If the poor attendance at the parliamentary session reflects the extent to which official political discourse deals with social issues, the substance of what was said was an even greater disappointment. On an issue which is a scourge the world over and on a proposal which has been accepted in several countries and examined by organizations like the FBI and Interpol, Greece’s parliamentary debate failed to escape stereotypes and slogans. At a time when all governments have confessed failure in controlling drug trafficking, it was said that Greece is bedeviled by the problem because the government lacks the political will or because the problem has social causes that need remedying before any legal measures can be taken. Kathimerini has repeatedly said that even though there may be reservations over backing decriminalization without more thorough study, there are no reservations whatsoever over acknowledging the blatant failure of the current policy of suppression. Prosecutions do not curb the drug flow: The increase in the amount of confiscated drugs merely tracks the increase in drug trafficking. Arrests may have increased sevenfold, but the deaths of addicts have soared ninefold over the same period. Hence it is contrary to both reason and political responsibility to insist on heavy penalties that have proved a failure and excluded the possibility of an alternative policy being pursued. And it shows a lack of courage to confine oneself to words on the issue of reducing penalties for drug users on which everyone agrees – but on which no one takes any action. In the coming days, the country’s courts will most likely impose some hefty sentences on hashish, cocaine or heroin dealers. But at the same time, a few hundred meters outside the courtrooms, these lethal substances will switch hands at a high price, to the glory of our intransigent politicians.