"Although in Russia drug use per se is not criminalized as in Georgia, possession without intent to supply in amounts exceeding 0.5 grams for heroin, opium or desomorphine is considered a crime and is punished by incarceration for up to three years27. At the same time it is important to emphasize that even where drug use is not a criminal offence, most countries apply administrative liability for it; in Russia, drug use can therefore result in 15 days arrest, which according to the European Court on Human Rights is equal to criminal liability.

"Experts estimate that in 2010 alone, prosecution for all drug offenders (demand and supply) cost an estimated $100 million in Russia28. That amount covers most expenses from the moment of arrest to the court decision, including those associated with operational-search measures, detention, preliminary investigation and court appearances (including payment for lawyers). It does not include the costs of pre-trial detention, incarceration after conviction or executing non-custodial sanctions, such as community service, fines, etc.29

"More than half of all cases are related to drug possession with no intent to supply, which refers primarily to people who use drugs rather than traffickers. This highlights the fact that Russia prioritizes punishment of people who use drugs in its war against illegal drugs, a situation further underscored by the following:

"• In 2010 about 108,000 people were convicted for drug crimes (under Articles 228–233 of the Criminal Code)30; of them, nearly two-thirds (no fewer than 64.7%) were convicted for drug possession with no intent to supply31. More than 104,000 people were charged with fines and administrative arrest for mere drug use or possession of drugs in tiny amounts (e.g., 0.5 grams of heroin or less).

"• Russian laws define “large” and “extra large” amounts of drugs to be much lower than the average quantity necessary for daily use. That is because for some narcotic drugs, such as heroin, marijuana or methadone33, the “large” and “extra large” amounts are determined not by the weight of the pure substance but by the weight of the entire mixture seized34."


Merkinaite, S. A war against people who use drugs: the costs. Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN): Vilnius, Lithuania, 2012.