DECRIMINALISING DRUG USE

For some time now, there has been public debate over decriminalising drug addiction and use in the country.

While some people have argued that drug addiction and use are health conditions, and should be treated as such, others think that it is criminal, and should be treated as an offence under the laws of the country.

Those who think that it should not be treated as an offence further suggested that drug addicts and users should rather be helped to come out of their predicaments, rather than being thrown into jail or onto the street.

They may think that the social cost that the country incur by throwing such people into jail is huge, and resources should instead be used to rehabilitate such addicts.

It appears that those who hold the view that drug addicts should be rehabilitated and not thrown into jail, have convinced the government to send a bill to Parliament, which when passed will decriminalise drug addiction and use.

The Narcotic Control Commission bill, 2015, has been proposed so that drug use and addiction will no longer be a punishable offence when Parliament passes the bill into law.

“Drug addiction will be treated as a health issue and offenders will be taken correctional facilities for assistance.

“This will make it possible for us to put up facilities for the rehabilitation of drug addicts. This is a new development that the new bill seeks to cater for,” the Deputy Minister of Interior, James Agalga, was quoted as saying when he moved the motion for the second reading of the bill.

The bill, which also seeks to transform the Narcotic Control Board (NACOB) into a commission, however, maintains the importation and exportation of narcotic drugs, illegal passion of drugs, business related to narcotics cultivation of plants for narcotic purposes, as criminal offenses punishable by fines or terms of imprisonment ranging between five and 20 years.

The bill also gives the state power to seize the properties of persons convicted of narcotic related offenses.

Quite frankly, those who support these bill, may consider the move as progressive and in line with practices elsewhere around the world.

We are encouraged that the bill has so far received a by-partisan support from Parliament, which is indication that it will be passed.

The Times is of the view that the passage of such a bill would support the rehabilitation of drug addicts and users, who otherwise would have been thrown into jail.

We are hopeful that the security agencies and the health authorities would support government to establish rehabilitation centres to the benefit of the drug addicts and the users as well as the nation at large.

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