Iranian Official Makes Overtures Towards Pot Legalization

By Paul Gaita 10/30/15

One of Iran's top advisers has a revolutionary way to combat the Islamic country's growing drug problem.

iran flag pot leaves.jpg

A prominent figure within an advisory council for Iran’s major political figures outlined measures to combat his country’s drug problems that included state supervision of cannabis and poppy growth, and the legalization of marijuana and opium for private use.

Speaking at a recent conference on addiction issues in Tehran, Saeed Sefatian, who oversees a drug demand reduction task force within the Council for the Discernment of the Expediency of the State, put forth the suggestions for an alternative drug policy. He said that Iran should establish ad hoc laws to make the aforementioned drugs legal under specific circumstances in private places and, in the case of opium, only for individuals of a certain age.

If adopted, the measures would be the latest and most sweeping change in drug policy for the Middle Eastern state, which has made significant strides in adopting a less punitive, more treatment, and harm reduction-based approach towards drug addiction.

The Council, which was established in 1987 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni, advises Iranian officials on a host of policies, and also provides the votes to pass drug-related legislation for the country independently of the Iranian parliament.

Sefatian’s group has helped to adopt many progressive drug policies, including the distribution of clean needles for IV drug users and methadone treatment for addicts, including prisoners. In doing so, they’ve made significant strides in tackling issues of HIV associated with IV drugs, which has earned positive response from the World Health Organization.

Observers say that Sefatian’s measures could have a significant impact on not only the drug problem in Iran, which affects between two and six million individuals, but also help to reduce its massive prison population, of which more than half are incarcerated on drug charges. More significantly, it could offer less draconian alternatives to the country’s iron-fist approach towards punishment for drug offenses, which are frequently punishable by death.

Groundwork for measures such as these are already in place, such as making opium tincture available to addicts registered with state addiction centers.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.