Archive for May 20th, 2017

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Ukraine decriminalises drug possession?

May 20, 2017

On 20th May, the Cabinet of Ministers in Ukraine were picketed regarding the decriminalising of prohibited drug possession.

That is not to say it would legalise drug possession.  It will remain against the law to possess controlled/prohibited drugs.

What changes with any decriminalisation are the penalties and how offenders are dealt with.  Police may use their discretion to enforce drug related statute relating to possession of a controlled substance – or not.  Discretion is a matter for the individual officer dealing with the offence/offender.

One office may confiscate the prohibited substance and simply drop it down the nearest drain.  Another may confiscate it, log it into the property store at a police station for destruction without actually dealing with the offender on an official basis – perhaps stating the substance was found in the street or in a bar on the floor where ownership could not be ascertained.  Yet another may decide to complete the paperwork and take the matter to a civil court (as criminal courts would be excluded by virtue of decriminalisation) whereby fines may be the outcome for the offender – but naturally no criminal record as the offence is no longer a crime.

Thus although a certain amount of discretion should always rest with a police officer to decide what to do in any given circumstance, it follows that in order to approximate/standardise the policing response to this decriminalisation of controlled substance possession, guidelines will have to follow.

Clearly it has to be made clear which drugs are subject to possession decriminalisation?  Cannabis?  Heroin?  Cocaine?  Amphetamines?  Barbiturates?  LSD?  Micro Dots?  Are there any sub-categories within that possession remains criminal?  For example a THC limit within the cannabis?  How would an officer be able to check without expensive laboratory tests – or does it matter in small quantities?

Is there a difference between possessing amphetamine for oral consumption or for injection if an offender is caught in the act of use?

How much (in weight) equates to personal possession and therefore a civil prosecution, rather than a criminal prosecution?

Should it solely be a matter of weight of the controlled substance when deciding “personal use” and criminality – or not?

What if a decriminalised weight is so packaged as to be able to be dealt to others?  It is then a matter of mens rea – or intent.  Possession with intent to supply has not been decriminalised.  However, the criminal dealer may sell their illicit wares so packaged and the user may have little option to buy so packaged in a number of packages/wraps with no intent of purchase other than personal (now decriminalised) use.

How will a police officer know a drug dealer that carries only the decriminalised weight and leaves the bulk stashed somewhere – other than being caught in the act of selling, or timely and expensive surveillance to prove criminal supply?

How many associated drug possession searches of property not in physical control of the offender when caught will no longer carried out may result in lost prosecutions for dealing when larger quantities?  What will the guidelines say?

Will instances of driving whilst under the influence of controlled/prohibited drugs increase when possession is no longer a criminal offence?  Will such statistics be collected?  Are there statistics to compare against?

What is the Cabinet rationale for decriminalisation?

Is it to to free up police officers time to deal with other more serious criminal matters?

If so how much policing time is spent dealing with (now decriminalised) possession for personal use?

Across Ukraine in 2016, approximately 5000 people were arrested for personal use possession.  729 people were arrested for offences of possession with intent to supply, supply, and yet more serious drug trafficking offences.

As decriminalisation does not equate to legalisation, and therefore the avenue of civil prosecution still remains, will police officers actually use their discretion sufficiently to radically reduce the 5000 prosecuted for possession last year?  (An incredible low number that in no way reflects the amount of “personal use” anyway.)

When does the decriminalisation take effect, and when will relevant national policing guidelines be circulated?

Is any future Cabinet decision to decriminalise possession of controlled substances made not on the issue of policing priorities, but rather to approximate with the norms across many (but not all) European nations?

If so, what lessons have been learned from those nations (if any)?

If it be to equate with (an unevenly applied) “European normative”, will the issue of prostitution be next on the Cabinet agenda – be it decriminalised or in fact legitimised and taxed as it is across some European nations?

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