The Polish Drug Policy Network started cooperation with seven experts in drug policy and human rights in order to accelerate changes aimed at rationalization and humanization of drug laws and the reform of addiction treatment system. The expert group comprises Ewa Woydyłło, Psy.D, a psychologist and addiction therapist, Prof. Jerzy Vetulani, a neurobiologist, and Marek Balicki, a psychiatrist and former Health Minister.
Besides, among the Board members are Piotr Kładoczny (L.D), a lawyer with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Prof. Krzysztof Krajewski, Head of the Department of Criminology at the Jagiellonian University, and journalists Ewa Wanat and Piotr Pacewicz. Together they form a PDPN Programming Board, an advisory body to the Polish Drug Policy Network.
During its first meeting the Board discussed most pressing issues, both of legal and medical nature. According to Prof. Krzysztof Krajewski, after the amendment in 2011 of the Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction, further changes in drug laws should be considered, including the reclassification of cannabis possession into a misdemeanor (following the example of Czech drug laws).
Piotr Kładoczny suggested that Poland, following the example of other European countries, should introduce drug amount reference tables that would define „minor” or „significant” amounts of drugs. Such action would facilitate the work of the Police. Thanks to such reference tables a student with 1 gram of marijuana would not be considered a potential offender. The change will result not only in saving money otherwise to be spent on prosecution, but most importantly in non-criminalization of young people, stressed Mr. Kładoczny.
Board members also highlighted the necessity to change the treatment approach: various treatment options should be available. There is a need for psychological and educational programs, but abstinence cannot be the sole treatment aim. It is not necessarily required in case of occasional users, while it may be unattainable in case of some addicted patients. Our model of dependency treatment is outdated and should be changed, added Ms. Woydyłło.
When discussing healthcare reforms, one should not forget about medical usage of marijuana. It may be used in case of such conditions as multiple sclerosis, and as a cancer pain-medication. The use of marijuana for medical purposes is becoming a world standard, said Marek Balicki. In turn, Prof. Jerzy Vetulani drew attention to the phenomenon of Polish ‘narcophobia’. Many public debates on illicit drugs are dominated by emotions and prejudices. Meanwhile, marijuana, similarly to morphine, finds its place in medicine and one just cannot pretend that it does not help patients. It is shameful that the state prohibits access to this drug, meanwhile authorizing legal sale of cigarettes and alcohol.
The Programming Board will meet regularly and, using the knowledge and experience of its members, will support further actions aimed at the reform of the Polish drug policy.