Ljubljana, 20 March 2014
Dear President Putin,
I would like to address the drug policy and public health implications of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This note intentionally steers clear of any political analysis of or opinion on the situation on the ground. What I’d like to suggest is that, in contrast to its domestic policy to date, Russia now has the opportunity (and perhaps an excuse) to initiate a new public health policy. It can do this by both supporting and expanding the development of the network of Harm Reduction services already successfully at work in Crimea.
As I see it, Russia now has a chance for a breakthrough in the treatment, rather than the punishment, of persons who consume hard drugs. We in the drug policy field should present this opportunity to Russian health and law enforcement authorities. We should also offer to help make it succeed, and to promote that success to the world. Since a model is already in place for harm reduction in Crimea, lobbying for its continuation and expansion will not only help Crimean public safety, but also will provide an inroads for Russia to begin implementing a humane drug policy at home.
I would like to approach you and other Russian authorities with this persuasive argument, and without bringing politics into the discussion (either the politics of recent military actions or of Russia’s current outdated drug policy mindset). Whatever their government, the people of Crimea and of Russia deserve a safe and effective drug policy.
Chair of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, ENCOD
Chair, društvo AREAL, Ljubljana, Slovenia