Viktor Orban’s new punitive drug policy

Over the past 18 months, Hungary’s conservative Prime Minister has established his power by proposing a new constitution and by initiating hundreds of new laws. His new legislation comprises new strict and punitive drug laws. In fact, the current Hungarian legislation advanced by Orban’s government is already one of the most restrictive in Europe.

According to the new legislation, there is no differentiation of drugs, which in practice means that a user or seller of cannabis receives the same punishment as a user or seller of heroin. There is no distinction between small scale dealing and trafficking or between medical and non-medical production of cannabis. In addition, drug users are forced to turn into justice their peers in order to avoid harsh punishment, even if the people they confess against are simply users as they are. And now comes the worst part: Those people who sell drugs, even in very small quantities, will be condemned in 2-8 years of incarceration and every young person over the age of 18 who possesses or acquires just one marijuana joint close to his school or dormitory should be subjected to up to three years of imprisonment.

The new Hungarian drug laws proposed by the PM are extremely harsh and inhumane. There is no other EU member state that advocates lifetime imprisonment without the option of parole for drug related offences. The new strict drug policy disproportionately affects and targets minorities and disadvantaged groups by ignoring the family backgrounds and life experiences of some vulnerable groups and by criminalizing drug use without any differentiation.

The HCLU (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union), a leading non-governmental organization in Hungary, whose mission is to advocate harm-reduction policies opposes to the new legislation and tries to organise social protest against the new inhumane drug policy laws.

Dr Andrea Pelle, member of the Executive Committee of the HCLU, in her interview for the Central Europe Review (, decries the criminalization of drug use and explains that strict laws have never resulted in the reduction of drugs and in any prevention of their spread. On the contrary, she emphasizes that drug dealers are not discouraged by the punitive measures and that criminalization of drugs is destructive for people in need, as it makes their medical support and treatment difficult: ‘New dealers keep on hitting the scene in spite of the fact that if they get caught in the act, they can expect long spells in prison as a result. … The more heavily drug use is criminalized, the greater the degree of distrust, the less inclined to dare to seek assistance are those most urgently in need of it’.

Another drugs professional, Sándor Bereczki, also interviewed for the Central Europe Review, stressed that the majority of drug addicts in Hungary come from broken homes, divorced families, alcoholic parents, undereducated environments. Drugs hit those young people who are unemployed or homeless. And what is the response of Orban’s government? Criminalizing drugs, massive incarceration and degradation of the people involved with drugs.

The Hungarian government let three weeks for social discussion of the proposed new Criminal Code, until it submits the bill to the parliament later this March. The HCLU is trying to initiate massive social resistance and act against this new punitive and inhumane legal framework.

The article was published on

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