At the same time as many countries around the world are looking to decriminalize illegal drugs and mitigate the effects of drug prohibition on their countries' residents, the majority of Russians support re-criminalizing illegal drug use, according to a new poll. In a recent survey conducted by Russia's government-controlled polling agency, VTSIOM, 78 percent of respondents said they were in favor of bringing back criminal penalties for illegal drug use.
Ninety-three percent of the respondents said they did not want to see any illegal drugs being traded. Only 6 percent of respondents supported legalization of cannabis or other “soft” drugs. Forty-three percent of the respondents said they consider drug addiction an illness than can and should be cured, but 28 percent said that all addicts are dangerous and should be locked away in isolation.
Illegal drug use and low-level possession are currently considered civil violations in Russia, punishable by fines or arrests of up to 15 days. However, drug production and trafficking crimes are still punished with long prison terms. The head of the Information and Statistics Directorate of the Prosecutor General’s Office reported that the government seized 24 tons of illegal drugs last year, down significantly from 52 tons in 2015. The official said that the reason for this was probably because drug dealers were doing a better job avoiding arrest, and not because drug supplies were decreasing.
Viktor Ivanov, the former head of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service, which was abolished in 2016, has said that legalizing drugs would be damaging to the country. In 2014, Ivanov shared many prohibitionist anti-marijuana myths with reporters, claiming that it caused depression, dissatisfaction with life, and schizophrenia. He also promoted the “gateway drug” myth, claiming that cannabis users were 50 to 60 times more likely to use heroin.