Transformation of Drug Policy in Poland: From Complete Depenalisation of Drug Possession to Its Absolute Criminalization

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: Booth 52
Oral Presentation
Jacek MOSKALEWICZ , Dep. of Studies on Alcoholism and Drug Depencence, Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Warsaw, Poland
Janusz SIEROSLAWSKI , Dep. of Studies on Alcoholism and Drug Depencence, Institute of psychiatry and neurology, Warsaw, Poland
Last three decades witnessed crucial transitions in Poland towards market economy and multi-party system. This process severely affected all spheres of life, including drug consumption and public policy in that area. Definition of drug abuse evolved. In the beginning of the 1980’s drug abuse was interpreted as an expression of inter-generation conflict. Its victims, young addicts could only be saved outside their original milieu, in therapeutic communities offering them a new, safe, drug-free environment  and bright prospects. Adoption of this definition led to depenalisation of drug possession in a  drug law of 1985 which could be seen as a landmark of transition from military government to civil rule. The depenalisation, however,  could also be read as a symbol or avenue of social inclusion of young addicts. Sudden changes in political and economic life in the beginning of the 1990’s led to enormous shifts in power and wealth. Fundamental reconfiguration in social structure, new powers and new wealth as well as growing poverty and social exclusion demanded moral justification. A number of social problems have suddenly become moral issues, subject of vivid moral debates and accusations in fight for moral supremacy. In result, legal provisions had to be introduced to symbolise new moral order. In 1997 drug possession was penalised. A number of drug-related crimes sky-rocketed from several thousand prior to the penalisation to eighty  thousand ten years later. In a decade, several hundred thousand, mostly young people underwent legal prosecution, most of them got  recorded in criminal registers which reduces their prospects in the labour market. Despite softening of the drug laws in the recent years, criminalisation of drug possession widened a generation gap and excluded significant proportion of the young generation labelling them as criminal deviants.