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A Modern Greek Odyssey

When considering the numerous disadvantages of the prohibition of drugs in Greece, which have been discussed previously, it becomes unclear why all these prohibitions have surrounded drug-use for such a prolonged period of time. The criminalization of drugs in Greece is an irrational policy, which has brought counter-productive results. It raises discrimination within the Greek society and endangers the well being of the public. It maintains, if not exacerbates, the tension between Greece and neighboring countries, whilst it diminishes civil liberties; and all that, while it fosters corruption and crime. The national strategy of Greece against drugs is far from perfect; thus the question still remains: why is drug-use so heavily criminalized?

There are two possible answers that can provide a legitimate explanation. The first derives form the theory of French philosopher and social theorist, Michel Foucault. Foucault’s conceptualization of power could be utilized to understand the reasons, which despite the plethora of limitations and disadvantages, the criminalization of drug-use is still in place in Greece. Foucault argues that every social relationship is a struggle for power. Everything revolves around the need to have the ability to exercise as much of it as possible (Taylor, 2011). In that struggle, both parties try to exercise upon the other as much power as possible in order to maintain and ensure the “higher moral ground” in exercise more power even in other relationships (Gutting, 2008). Similarly, in the relationship that a state and the users of drugs share, they exercise power upon each other to achieve their respective desired outcomes. The winner of this nexus gains legitimacy and the ability to exercise “power” in future relationships (Geoff Danaher, Schirato, & Webb, 2000). The Greek state has a vital need to ensure itself and its power exercising mechanisms, including the criminal justice system, in order to ensure the monopoly of power, authority and violence (Pollock, 2007). Foucault’s theorization of power explains why Greece and many states around the world criminalise drug-use in order to be able to exercise more power upon users.

The second scenario, which provides an answer to the prohibition o drug-use, despite its many disadvantages, is a culturally embedded one. It traces back to the myths and legends, which defined the “right” of the sovereign to force his will upon his subjects. The story of the Trojan War is comprised by many stories which defend the ability of the leading authority to partake even in irrational activities, simply because he is the sovereign. Prince Paris of Troy kidnapped Helen, although he knew it would cause a war with Sparta and endanger the lives of Trojans. King Agamemnon went to war to defend the pride of his family even though he knew it would cost many Greek lives. Achilles went to Troy with his men, even though his mother had prophesised his death and the death of his men. However, most characteristic is the example of Odysseus, who on the way back to Ithaca, he had the “right” to force his men, when they ate the Lotus and were not in control of themselves. The example of Odysseus defends the “right” of the sovereign to order his subjects and force them to something against their will. The same principle is used for the criminalization of drugs. The state has the authority to exercise power upon those who are under the influence of drugs, just like Odysseus had the ability to command his men who were under the influence of Lotus.

However, neither of the aforementioned reasons justifies the prohibition of drugs and the criminalization of users. The culturally constructed ability of a sovereign to “do what it takes” to safeguard and defend his sovereignty does not justify or even excuse the implementation of such irrational policies in Greece.


Geoff Danaher, Schirato, T., & Webb, J. (2000). Understanding Foucault. St Leonards, NSW, Australia: SAGE Publications.

Gutting, G. (2008, 09 17). Michel Foucault. Retrieved 02 12, 2013, from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/foucault/

Pollock, J. (2007). Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice. Belmont: THOMSON WADSWORTH.

Taylor, D. (2011). Michel Foucault Key Concepts. Durham: ACUMEN.

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