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Russia Decriminalises All Personal Drug Use

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Monday, May 24, 2004
Moscow authorities relaxed laws for cocaine, heroin, marijuana and LSD this week meaning users will no longer face being sent to jail.

Under the new rules, users found with up to ten times the quantity of a single dose (1.5 grams of cocaine, 20 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of hashish) face fines or community service and will no longer be considered to have committed a criminal offence, the Moscow Times revealed this week.

The changes are dramatic since under the previous laws, drug users caught even just smoking a joint faced immediate, often lengthy jail sentences in Russia's barbaric prison system which is plagued with overcrowding and life-threatening diseases including AIDS and tuberculosis.

"The real impetus for the change probably lies in the country's festering, overcrowded, and disease-filled prison system," said a report on drugs reform site this week.

"With some 850,000 prisoners, Russia is second only to the United States in the number and percentage of its people it imprisons, and an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 of them are incarcerated on drug charges."

Their reference to Russia's "festering, overcrowded, and disease-filled prison system" echoed the concerns of Russian civil rights campaigner Valery Abramkin, an ex political prisoner who served time in Moscow's notorious Butyrka prison in the 80s.

"The situation in Russia's prisons is absolutely disastrous, much, much worse than it was 10 years ago or even one year ago," he told the St Petersburg Times in 1996.

"We are talking about a system which is bringing about mass death from disease, a true hell on earth where prisoners are now asking their neighbours to kill them to end their misery," he said.

Electro legend Tasty Tim frequently DJs in Moscow and told Skrufff recently that drugs were surprisingly visible in the city.

"If cocaine is your drug of choice, well the next time someone tells you they have a lot of snow in Moscow, you'll know what they mean," said Tim.

"Though there is also no denying that there is a heavy police presence and carrying ID at all times is a must," he advised.

"I personally have had no run-ins with 'the law' but everyone who lives there has their own horror story to tell; usually involving money changing hands; presumably to avoid arrest- Who knows- But the great American dollar is a powerful language in Moscow."