With the purpose to hear the voices from as many young people as possible, including those living outside the capital city, public debate took place online in the form of interactive podcast on February 7th 2019.
The topic of the podcast was set to be “YOUTH & DRUG POLICIES”, and aimed to initiate a discussion and raise awareness about the influence of drug related laws and policies and the manner through which these are enforced on young people’s lives in Macedonia.

Two moderators/hosts, one of them sociologist and one lawyer, were invited to facilitate the discussion and converse about the respect of the rule of law in Macedonia and the implementation of drug policies in different fields during the podcast.

The podcast was promoted through sponsored announcements on Facebook and Instagram, the reach of which is enclosed to this report.

Potential attendants were encouraged to share their experience, suggest directions for the discussion and ask questions even prior the event (by posting comments or sending direct messages to HOPS’s Facebook page). The discussion prior the event can be observed on the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/546688499171121/. The facilitators took into account all suggestions and questions when preparing for the podcast.

The podcast was streamed live on HOPS’s Facebook page on 07.02.2019, from 18-19h. This time frame was selected to ensure a greater audience reach. The podcast can be accessed at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/hops.org/videos/2155389371149372/. Until the completion of this report, 3571 people viewed parts or the entire podcast.

The podcast was opened with a discussion around a specific case/question submitted to HOPS’s page – which according to the hosts and the discussion in the live comments section, was a clear violation of the legal frame set forth with the laws regulating drug possession and use in Macedonia. The hosts continued with revealing research findings about outcomes of legal and court procedures about drug related cases, highlighting that there is no age segregated statistics. The costs for criminalization as opposed to health and social support was later discussed, followed by the influence of public and expert opinion in creation of national policies.
The podcast continued with an analysis of police actions, concluding that abuse of power and torture of people who use drugs is no longer the case in recent years in most parts of the country.
The need for legal information and empowerment was later discussed, as well as the urgent need for sensitizing state officials for proper conduct with marginalized communities.
A range of questions by viewers were answered by the end, and young people were referred to proper services.

The discussion concluded with an observation that the national laws follow international trends and recommendations from relevant organizations to a great extent, however, some work remains to be done to align the institutional practices with the national laws in order to ensure the rule of law equally for all Macedonian citizens.