Authors: Olga Belyaeva, Advocacy Manager, EHRA/Sergei Bessonov, “Harm Reduction Network” Association, Kyrgyzstan
“Don’t push us into the corner or we will shoot”. Who pushes people into the corner introducing new Criminal Codes under the guise of “humane reforms” and reducing the prison population in Kyrgyzstan while three grams of hashish are subject to a fine of 4000 dollars?! If you don’t pay the fine they’ll put you in prison for up to 5 years. And most importantly, how can we change the vector of drug policy toward regulation of psychoactive substances, safe drug use with adequate restrictions that keep people in the legal field and give possibilities of comfortable drug use?
This is the topic of our meeting during the Dialogue Platform “Challenges for the communities and definition of responsive measures”, organized by the Kyrgyzstan Harm Reduction Association with assistance from the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and AFEW Kyrgyzstan.
Platform discussion topics: geopolitical relations between countries, stigma influenced by religion, the history of cannabis and opium in Kyrgyzstan. How and why did people change the methods of substance use, real risks and consequences of such actions and how can we respond to them in our harm reduction programs. In fact, we see that programs and approaches of harm reduction services are not in the same street with the actual needs of people. We also discussed the pilot project that would start in one of the districts in Bishkek in 2019, based on the LEAD model and led by AFEW. The basic indicators of the desired results of the pilot are community monitoring, including street lawyers / public defenders, personal contacts, statistics monitoring of drug related cases in police, probation and courts.
The country is currently reviewing the Government Regulation № 543 on drug quantities: small, large and extremely large. Small quantity qualifies for a misconduct, while large and extremely large quantities are considered a criminal offense. Small quantities will remain in the Regulation, for example, a small quantity for heroin is up to 1 gram. The big step forward is that the expertise on the drug purity was included to the Regulation. Basically, it’s a good topic to consider. If a person is detained with 1.5 grams of a drug, the person perpetrates the Criminal Code, which means 4 000 dollars fine or a prison. Then, the expertise might show that the pure substance is less than one gram, this means the person breaks the law of the Misdemeanor Code and can be subject to a fine of 800 dollars and a restriction of freedom for 6 months (the person would also be banned from visiting certain places or will be subjected to treatment according to their consent and at their expense). The problem in this case is that the actual situation on the drug stage is not taken into account, where the minimum purchase of heroin begins at five or ten grams.
“Fine for freedom” (c). People who feel and understand their freedom may create such slogans. And we know that our message will be convincing only if we accept ourselves as people for whom the use of psychoactive substances is a standard of living. We should expose to the thinking people the causal relationship between bribes, provocations, blackmail by policy and suicide, homelessness, pain and all negative consequences of repressive drug policies, which could have been prevented.
1 000 dollars are spent for incarceration of one person per year while opiate substitution therapy and needle exchange programs cost only 280 dollars and give you freedom. Drug policy and appropriate use of public budget are two halves of the same objective: decriminalization as a step towards the regulation of substances and redirection of resources from repression to helping people with drug dependency. Tomorrow the participants of the Dialogue Platform will clarify the strategic goals and tactical plans to blaze a trail to freedom and implementation of the constitutional rights in their country.