Newsbrief: Bulgarian Reformers Report Tough New Law Approved 3/26/04

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The Bulgarian drug reform group Promena ( for you readers of Cyrillic) reports that on March 16 the Bulgarian parliament voted overwhelmingly for a law that would recriminalize the possession of small amounts of controlled substances, including marijuana. Under current law, Promena said, people arrested with small quantities of drugs could avoid jail by undergoing drug treatment. Under the law passed last week, possession of even small quantities of illicit drugs will bring instead a 10-to-15 year prison sentence.

Promena has written to Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov to ask him to veto the bill, the group reported, and will also notify the European parliament, which Bulgaria hopes to join in 2007. The group said the bill was pushed through by a prominent populist in the ruling party who appealed to older, low-income voters. Promena reported "unusually intense and very negative" media reaction to the move. "Never have so many people spoken out against prohibition and never have they received so much attention by the media," said Promena.

The main victims, said Promena, would be "the people between 18 and 28 who comprise 75% of the 'drug scene,' as well as teenagers," while the main beneficiaries would be "the mafia as drug prices will rise, the corrupt police and judiciary (revenue will increase from both arrested users and protected drug dealers) and the proponents of the law who will gain public esteem for fighting crime."

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