The laws surrounding several types of drug offenses in Iran have been repealed, possibly saving approximately the 5,000 prisoners who are currently on death row in the country. Iran has historically had a hard stance on drugs, and getting caught with 30g of cocaine would automatically warrant the death penalty — that’s just over an ounce. That law has since been changed to 2kg (4.4lbs). Possession of opium or marijuana could have also received the death penalty, but now those limits have been increased from 5kg (11 lbs) to 50kg (110.2 lbs).

However, it is important that the current prisoners facing execution understand the next steps if they want to commute their current sentence. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam from the Iran Human Rights NGO, said in an interview with the BBC that, “the commute is not automatic and convicts need to take the first step themselves and make sure their case is reconsidered… Since most of those sentenced to death for drug offenses belong to the most marginalized parts of Iranian society, it is not given that they have the knowledge and resources to apply for commuting their sentence.”

Iran has the second highest use of capital punishment in the world, behind China (though China leads by a significant number). Just below Iran are Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt and then the United States. However, in 2016 the United States executed 20 prisoners, and Iran over 567,  so the gap is significant. China came in over 1000 in the same year. 103 countries have abolished the use of the death penalty, but 56 still have it integrated in their judicial system.

In this Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 photo, female drug addicts rest at their dorm in Chitgar treatment camp, in a mountain village northwest of Tehran, Iran. Anti-narcotics and medical officials say more than 2.2 million of Iran’s 80 million citizens already are addicted to illegal drugs, including 1.3 million on registered treatment programs. | AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

The drug problem in Iran has plagued the country for years. A significant portion of the drugs come over from the Afghan border, and according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes, Iran has one of the more serious drug problems in the world. Out of a population of 80.28 million, just under 3 million people are estimated to have an addiction to hard drugs. Heroin is one of the largest types of hard drugs, and around 308,647 lbs of it come through the country each year to be distributed internationally, and authorities are only able to confiscate an average of 23 percent.

The huge price fluctuations as the drug traffickers travel from border to border is what makes it so profitable. Traffickers can gross around $450-600 million a year with this method, acquiring it for cheap in Afghanistan, taking it across Iran and selling it in Turkey for much more. This sort of money not only fuels the drug trade, but fuels the violence and crime that typically surrounds any profitable, illegal business.


Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.