The Justice Ministry has unveiled a proposal for completely new drug legislation, as the current laws do not seem to be having the desired preventive or deterrent effect. The aim of the bill is to impose equal penalties for possession of the same amount of drug, to punish drug dealers in particular more harshly than so-called recreational drug users and to provide better help and prevention when it comes to illegal drugs in general.
In terms of drug possession, the draft law gives priority to prevention over criminalisation.
“We propose that possession of a negligible amount of drugs should be recorded only as an offence and punished by a fine the first time,” said Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská (Most-Híd) as cited by the TASR newswire, stressing that any drug possession is illegal even according to the new bill. “Only in the case of repeated violations of the law within 12 months should this be viewed as a crime.”
Based on official statistics, as many as 30 percent of young people have experimented with marijuana and thus, theoretically, a third of them should face criminal prosecution followed by imprisonment or, more likely, a suspended sentence, said the minister. A European survey from 2015 registered an increase in experimentation with marijuana among people of 15 to 34 years in Slovakia.
In particular, the bill seeks to ensure that the same punishments should be imposed for possession of the same amount of a drug. This is not the case at the moment, perhaps partly due to ambiguous formulations in the law, said Žitňanská.
Prosecutor Jozef Čentéš added that there are courts in Slovakia that have convicted people for possessing marijuana only when the quantity exceeds 0.5 grams, but there are also courts that do the same in the case of offenders caught in possession of an amount five times lower.
“We want the courts to always react to the same situation with the same decision, which also meets the principles of the rule of law,” said Čentéš.
The new bill will also set the exact amounts of illegal drugs on which punishability will be based. Thus, the current terms like “for own need” or “ordinary one-off dose of drug” should be eliminated from the legislation.
The bill has been drawn up over several years by a working commission of experts from various areas. The Justice Ministry has submitted the bill to its comments phase, and Žitňanská says that she is ready for a long and thorough discussion. The proposed effectiveness of the bill is March 1, 2018.