Drug addiction in quarantine – fighting narcotics in Abkhazia during the pandemic
The closure of the border with Russia for a long time due to the coronavirus pandemic affected, among other things, the lives of drug addicts in Abkhazia and drug trafficking.
The Abkhaz authorities say they are successfully wining the fight against cannabis plantations, although getting pot is still not a problem.
And drug dealers are finding ways to smuggle heavier drugs across the border, despite the fact that the death penalty has been introduced in Abkhazia for this.
Nevertheless, according to experts, drug use in Abkhazia has decreased during the quarantine.
The hunt for the “drug mafia”
If you go to the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia, then the top news will be approximately the following:
“Illegal cultivation of prohibited for cultivation plants containing narcotic substances”, “Illegal possession of a narcotic substance”, “Illegal storage and use of psychotropic substances.”
The videos of the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs also consist entirely of footage of uprooting marijuana and seizing pills of various substances.
The names and faces of offenders are not hidden.
According to operational reports, the blood of the detainees mainly contains methadone, morphine and marijuana.
But there are facts that cannot be found in the operational reports that people exchange mainly on social media or messengers.
“You heard so-and-so was caught with methadone yesterday. He tried to transport it across the border. But he’ll get out of it…” Such news does not get on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but is vigorously discussed over a pack of sunflower seeds in every Sukhum courtyard.
In Sukhum, almost everyone has a friend who can get marijuana or ‘plan’, as it is called in Russian, at any time. Therefore, the topic of combating the weed is close to everyone.
“On the contrary, they need to legalize marijuana, then both agriculture and tourism will rise,” says resident of Sukhum Levan (name has been changed), “let those who push shirk (ed. sells hard drugs) be imprisoned.
“They have built palaces for themselves and are sitting untouchable behind their gates. And the disabled, who relieve pain with marijuana, are imprisoned. They have planted two bushes for themselves. Well, maybe he’ll share with a neighbor a couple of times. This is not a drug business. Where’s the justice?”
Is the law not always fair?
The fight against drug addiction is the main point in the speeches of politicians of all stripes, and especially during the pre-election period.
But the Minister of Internal Affairs Dmitry Dbar decided to introduce the bold phrase of “defeating drug addiction in five years”.
Under his leadership, the drug control department began to destroy locally grown drugs – poppy and marijuana.
At least, this impression is formed after studying the operational reports of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Since other types of drugs, according to this information, are much less common today.
“It’s very good that they are going after those who grow marijuana,” says lawyer Inga Gabilaia. “But the law, which provides the same punishment for those who grow marijuana for themselves, and those who cultivate entire cannabis plantations, to put it mildly, is unfair.”
According to the criminal code, from 10 to 12 years imprisonment is provided for those who grow more than six cannabis roots.
“It makes no difference whether one has six flower pots on the balcony, or the other is cultivating a hemp field. Both go under the article of ‘large quantities of marijuana.’ A normal person can see the difference, but the law does not,” says Inga Gabilaia.
According to statistics, in 2019, 164 people were criminally prosecuted for the illegal circulation of narcotic and psychotropic substances in Abkhazia, and 34 in the first six months of 2020.
Since January 2020, an unprecedentedly tough law for the post-Soviet space has been in force in Abkhazia – the death penalty or life imprisonment for the distribution of drugs on an especially large scale.
However, there have been no such cases for the use of such a cruel punishment in the republic so far.
Drugs and quarantine
At the end of July, the fight against locally cultivated drugs subsided, after hemp seedlings and poppy seedlings had been destroyed.
The transit time has come.
During the pandemic, with the closed Abkhaz-Russian border, it would seem that it would have been impossible to smuggle in drugs, but more and more people appear in the reports who carry drugs in themselves, in other words, they swallow them.
In July, two people were stopped while crossing the Russian-Abkhaz border at the Psou checkpoint, interrogated, sent to a pre-trial detention center and waited for the natural extraction of the drug capsule, after which a criminal case was launched.
It turns out that the border is not completely closed.
Indeed, any citizen with dual citizenship can cross it once. Dealers also use this loophole.
In addition, trucks cross the border.
Drug dealers use vehicles to transport narcotics, say law enforcement officials.
Using a magnet, they attach packages of drugs to the body of a heavy-duty car on the Russian side, and on the Abkhaz side, their accomplices pick up the package. And all this without the knowledge of the truck driver.
Alkhas is a supplier of a shop in Sukhumi. Twice a week he goes to Krasnodar to buy goods, and during each trip he experiences tremendous stress.
“At every stop, my partner and I have to inspect the car. And at the moment when we cross the border, every second we monitor who is walking next to us.
“While I am busy with the paperwork, my partner never leaves the car, God forbid, the hucksters will stick something to us. I have a family, children, I cannot afford to run into such troubles.
“I know there have been cases when they stuck drug trafficking both on drivers and shopkeepers,” Alkhas said.
The situation in the republican drug dispensary suggests that there are fewer drugs in the country. During the quarantine period, the number of people wishing to recover from drug addiction increased significantly, says the head of the dispensary, Irma Anua.
“The addict decides that he wants to be cured only when he is in discomfort. Now there is a lack of drugs and the police are working harder”, says the chief narcologist of Abkhazia.
“Many people have withdrawal symptoms, but we do not treat withdrawal symptoms. They undergo detoxification under the pretext of treatment, and some really quit. During the time that Abkhazia closed its borders, namely from the end of March, the number of overdoses has significantly decreased”, says Irma Anua. And this is also another indicator of a decrease in drug use in the country.