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Head of Russian Drug Agency Rejects Legalized Pot

Russia's top drug czar, Viktor Ivanov, made the baseless claim that marijuana leads to heroin addiction while also questioning the effectiveness of proven harm reduction techniques.

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Viktor Ivanov. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

02/25/14

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While attitudes toward marijuana have been rapidly changing in the United States, it looks as though Russia is still clinging to Reefer Madness-style propaganda.

Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service, has flatly rejected any possibility of legalizing marijuana in the motherland. Ivanov cited the long debunked notion that pot serves as a gateway drug to more hardcore substances. "Marijuana users have a 50 or 60 times higher risk of switching to heroin. There is one step from dope to heroin,” he said in an interview with the Interfax news agency. Ivanov went on to proclaim that those who smoke pot will later suffer from depression, dissatisfaction with life, and even schizophrenia.

Going further, Ivanov also cast doubt on methadone programs and harm reduction techniques like clean needle exchanges, despite their proven ability to increase safety and even prompt addicts to seek treatment. If we want to hand out syringes we should do it in places with addicts, to prevent the spreading of diseases,” he said. “If there are no addicts why would we give syringes to the people? Who would approve of people handing out syringes near his own home?”

While Russia makes no distinction between soft and hard drugs when prosecuting dealers, the country has not criminalized addiction and estimates that some 8.5 million Russians use drugs.

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