The Russian anti-drug watchdog has prepared a bill introducing criminal punishment of up to two years in jail for drug users, the RAPSI news agency reported on Monday.
Some 30,000 to 40,000 Russians die every year from drug-related illnesses, according to official statistics. Russia has an estimated 5 million drug users, an epidemic blamed mostly on cheap heroin from Afghanistan. Drug use is also blamed for some 57 percent of the 62,000 HIV infections registered in Russia in 2011.
Last year, the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) proposed introducing criminal punishment for “regular drug use.” Under the newly drafted bill, drug users would face a prison term or compulsory labor for a period of up to two years if caught a second time within a year. First-time offenders would pay a fine.
In line with current laws, drug use in Russia is not a criminal offence, as opposed to drug dealing or possession. Drug consumption is punished with a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles ($140-$170) or an administrative arrest of up to 15 days.
The bill may be introduced for consideration to the Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, in the near future. If passed, it would mark a return to the Soviet practice, when users would be fined when caught for the first time and charged only if spotted under the influence for a second time. The maximum punishment was seven years in jail.
The new legislation also stipulates compulsory medical treatment for both people officially diagnosed with drug addiction and “regular drug users.” Meanwhile, those charged with regular drug use may escape criminal punishment if they agree to undergo treatment voluntarily.