The Government is committed to ensuring that drug laws and policies are consistent with the country’s obligations under international human rights treaties it has acceded to.
The Minister for the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, said this in Accra on Monday at the National Dialogue on the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy in Ghana.
The two-day dialogue was to consider the content and implementation of the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy in the context of Ghana’s ongoing drug reform process.
According to him, the government was developing measures that would improve health, safety, security and the socio-economic wellbeing of the people by reducing drug-related harm and illicit trafficking.
As part of efforts by government to empower mandated state institutions to perform effectively, Mr Dery said the Narcotics Control Commission Act was passed in the year 2020 to transform the former Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), which had limited functions, to the independent Narcotics Control Commission (NACOC), one with an expanded mandate and law enforcement powers.
This, he said, was aimed at closing the gaps in interagency co-ordination and strengthening the government’s toolkit for combating drug-related harms in the country.
“The Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020 (Act 1019) also seeks to reduce the stringent mandatory five-year imprisonment for possession and personal use of illicit drugs to a lesser punishment,” he added.
He stated that the Act was focused on establishing a more humane drug policy and pave way for best practices in the management of narcotic drugs in the country.
He assured that the government was committed to working with other partners to achieve a common goal of strengthening and retooling state institutions to improve drug policies in the country.
The former Executive Secretary of the NACOC, Mr Yaw Akrasi Sarpong, said despite government reforms on drug policies with human rights, health and development in the past years, a lot needed to be done to achieve their goals.
He said the 2020 Act that was passed sought to depenalise drug use and possession of drug, however, the activities were still fined and individuals who used drugs were harassed or arrested by authorities.
He stressed that the alignment of the country’s drug policies with development remained a challenge because individuals who cultivated these illegal crops were being denied access to adequate standard living.
“The international Guidelines on Human Rights and Drugs Policy call for government to address the root causes for which people and communities cultivate illegal crops such as cannabis, and guarantee the right to an adequate standard of living for these communities,” he added.
The United Nations Resident Co-ordinator, Ghana, Mr Charles Abani, on his part, said it had always been a challenge to punitively or coercively address drug-related situations, so all states needed to pursue in a more humane approach.
The National Dialogue was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior, NACOC, United Nations Human Rights Office, United Nations Development Programme, World Health Organisation, International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy and the International Drug Policy Consortium.
BY CECILIA LAGBA & RHODA AMPONSAH