Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou on Wednesday unveiled new draft legislation that will seek to decriminalise drug use, treating it less as a criminal offence than a condition that the user must be helped to recover from.
The minister clarified, however, that the courts will always have the final word and that the law will remain tough on those that deal or cultivate drugs.
Papaioannou said the draft bill was approved by cabinet on Tuesday and would now be posted for a period of public dialogue, after which it would take its final form.
He noted that there were roughly 300 drug-related deaths in Greece each year, while there were currently 4,500 inmates in Greek prisons for violations of laws on drugs. This number was further augmented to about half the prison population if combined with those serving time for offences directly linked with the use and trade in drugs, such as thefts, rapes and other crimes.
The minister emphasised that the cost of implementing the bill would be minimal compared with the social benefits, adding that the ministry was making preparations so that prisons will soon be in a position to administer methadone as a drug substitute.
He noted that an overall plan of action for fighting drug use will be announced by the government soon.