Iran Moves To Decriminalize Drug Use, Provide Treatment Instead

An addict receives treatment at a drop-in center and shelter south of Tehran, Iran.  (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

An addict receives treatment at a drop-in center and shelter south of Tehran, Iran. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran appears to be on the verge of overhauling its drug-related policies. While a new bill is being amended in parliament to stop the execution of petty drug smugglers, another plan is also under study for allowing state organs to distribute drugs — primarily opium — among addicts, the Radio Fard reported.

Iranian lawmakers have adopted a motion to distribute diluted narcotics among drug addicts in a bid to cut off their relationship with drug traffickers, said Hassan Norouzi, the spokesperson for the Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission, the IFPNews reported.

“The plan to distribute [low-grade] drugs is similar to what used to be implemented before the [1979 Iran’s Islamic] Revolution,” he noted, according to a Farsi report by ILNA.

He said all relevant authorities have given the go-ahead to the proposal.

“Given the special emphasis that the Establishment’s macro-policies put on the necessity of cutting off the relationship between drug addicts and narco-traffickers, we decided that the government hand out diluted drugs to addicts, so that they will be able to give up their addiction gradually and, instead of being drawn to drug-traffickers, turn to the Establishment and meet their needs through official channels,” he said.

He then noted that the commission will continue its work to finalize the plan’s approval.

As for what kinds of narcotics the government is to distribute among drug addicts, he said, “These drugs include methadone and substances more diluted than previous ones, and the authority to decide on that rests with bylaws which are to be jointly drawn up by the Ministry of Justice and [Iran’s] Drug Enforcement HQ, and which could come into effect after getting the all clear from the Cabinet,” said the top lawmaker.

He was asked whether or not the proposal provides for the substitution of industrial drugs. In response, the spokesman said, “The same bylaws will be the reference to make a decision on that, and our objective is to sever the relation between drug addicts and narco-traffickers.’

He underscored the representatives of all authorities involved in the proposal were present at the meeting of the commission and all agreed to the plan.

On July 16, 2017, parliament approved a proposal to amend Iran’s 1997 Law to Combat Drugs to limit the death penalty for some nonviolent, drug-related offenses. However, parliament sent the draft legislation back to the parliamentary judiciary commission for a fourth time to deliberate the proposed changes for certain offenses.

“220,000 to 250,000 drug smugglers in Iran, and that is a serious source of social harm,” said Saeed Sefatian, head of the working group on drug demand reduction in the Expediency Council, on July 23, according to Iran Students News Agency.

Furthermore, Sefatian declared, “Iran currently has 2.8 million addicts whose cost for the country’s economy is 500 trillion rials (roughly $15 billion). Out of that, 200 trillion rials go to smugglers and dealers.”

Iran has long borders with hotbeds of drugs production and has dedicated many lives to fight smuggling rings. In the latest example, the Iranian Law Enforcement Police arrested members of two international drug trafficking networks in the Southeastern province of Sistan and Balouchestan, seizing 4 tons of narcotics and large caches of arms.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are two origins of producing and trafficking various types of narcotic in the region.

The anti-drug squads of the Iranian Law Enforcement Police have intensified their countrywide campaign against drug-trafficking through staging long-term systematic operations since 2010.

The Iranian anti-narcotic police have always staged periodic, but short-term, operations against drug traffickers and dealers, but the latest reports – which among others indicate an improved and systematic dissemination of information – reveal that the world’s most forefront and dedicated anti-narcotic force (as UN drug-campaign assessments put it) has embarked on a long-term countrywide plan to crack down on the drug trade since five years ago.

The Iranian police officials maintain that drug production in Afghanistan has undergone a 40-fold increase since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.

While Afghanistan produced only 185 tons of opium per year under the Taliban, according to the UN statistics, since the US-led invasion, drug production has surged to 3,400 tons annually. In 2007, the opium trade reached an estimated all-time production high of 8,200 tons.

Afghan and western officials blame Washington and NATO for the change, saying that allies have “overlooked” the drug problem since invading the country more than 16 years ago.


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