Vice Squad
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Russia’s victories in the war on drugs

Russia’s federal agency for fighting the war on drugs, Gosnarkokontrol, has just announced (this source is in Russian) that during the first year of its existence it has confiscated 44 tons of illegal drugs. The agency claims that it has been working only on really big cases and not bothering with small fry. The deputy head of the agency, Mr. Alexander Mikhailov, stated that the agency managed to stop more than 1,000 of large shipments, including 400 kilos of heroin from Afghanistan discovered in the Moscow region. It seems, however, that Mr. Mikhailov’s information about not bothering with small fry might have been somewhat misleading. (Perhaps he was getting bad intelligence.) For example, in the end of last year, Gosnarkokontrol went after the sellers of consumer items that promoted drug culture. In particular, the agency tried to impose fines on the sellers of t-shirts and cigarette lighters with pictures of cannabis on them. The rather predictable result has been that these items can still be bought but only under the table. Last April, the federal narkokontrollers tried to ban all the fiction that mentioned the ways of making or using illegal drugs. However, Russia is apparently not quite ready yet for this and the ban has not taken place. Perhaps Russia will mature for such a ban by the end of the second year of the glorious agency’s work.

While waiting for that day, the agency has managed to accomplish some other uniquely Russian (or are they?) spectacular achievements. Even prior to the end of its “major military operations” of eliminating all Afghani heroin shipments, Gosnarkokontrol has been mopping up the last remnants of enemy resistance. First, the agency tried to prosecute the veterinarians who used ketamine to anesthetize pets for surgery. In one such apparently typical case (the source is in Russian) in October 2003, a veterinarian was caught red-handed trying to administer the drug to a… cat. He was charged with unlawful transactions with drugs in large quantities. The vet, who was a victim of a sting operation, had a vial with 0.24 grams of ketamine. One of the witness accounts stated that the veterinarian was caught attempting to “supply the drug to a cat via an injection” (the Russian word used was “sbyt” which actually is closer to a “sale” than simple “supply”). At the time of the sting, the drug was prohibited for the use by veterinarians, but prior to the trial, the Ministry of Agriculture had legalized it although the appropriate accompanying regulations had not been implemented. Nonetheless, it appears that the defendant was acquitted mainly because of the legal change reported by Vice Squad earlier that increased the criminal quantities of illegal drugs, including ketamine, making the vet only civilly liable for a rather small fine. Most other “veterinarian cases” were discarded by the prosecutors by late June 2004.

However, Gosnarkokontrol soon shifted its attention (this is in Russian) to even more potentially drug abusive professions such as dentists and gynecologists. Several searches and audits revealed that the same ketamine and other drugs are sometimes used by these professionals without the appropriate licenses. For example, after a receipt for the purchase of ketamine was found during a search at the gynecological clinic “Blagovest,” the clinic’s director was charged with the sale of illegal drugs. The clinic had a license for the storage and use of these drugs valid through 2007. A new regulation required the clinic to obtain a license of a new type although the old licenses were never revoked. The clinic applied for a new license and was in the process of obtaining it, but ever-vigilant Gosnarkokontrol caught up with it before the new license has been issued. Similar cases were brought against some dentists and psychiatrists.

Even though Gosnarkokontrol may focus on large dealers (as well as veterinarians and gynecologists) it always remembers, of course, that the main goal of drug wars all over the world is to save the young people. Therefore, the agency announced (again, in Russian) that every Moscow night club would be required to obtain a special certificate stating that no drugs are sold on the premises. The certification is supposed to be conducted by a special Gosnarkokontrol commission. The certificate would then be posted at the entrance to the club. The clubs without the appropriate certificates will be subject to particularly close scrutiny of the police and could be closed. I’ll let the reader decide who the main beneficiaries of the certification requirement are going to be.

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