Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Friday, 12 August 2016
‘Wee’ Users Should Not Be Arrested - The Executive Secretary of Ghana Narcotics Control Board (NACOB)
The Executive Secretary of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), Yaw Akrasi Sarpong believes a lenient paradigm shift is needed in the approach of law enforcement to crimes involving marijuana. Mr. Sarpong described as a waste of money and an “onslaught on conscience” the fact that people are arrested for possession of marijuana. The NACOB boss is not stranger to more left-field approaches to the substance as he previously called for a national debate on the legalization of marijuana in Ghana.
Addressing the media on Friday, he acknowledged that marijuana was a major problem in Africa but held that the response to this scourge by society was “completely misunderstood.” The NACOB boss bemoaned the stigmatization of marijuana asking: “What is so sinful about a young man who is unfortunately involved in problematic substance use… what is the difference between him and someone who is an alcoholic?”
He was adamant the laws concerning Marijuana enforcement had to change and called for a reform and national debate in Ghana’s approach to the substance. “Why is that we are spending so much money on people who smoke one roll and remanding them in prison. That is an onslaught on conscience… Sometimes they don’t do it because they are bad. They do it because of peer pressure.” Emphasis on rehabilitation A more tailored approach to dealing with drug addicts because according to Mr. Sarpong because “addiction is a disease.
It is not a sin and if it is disease, it must be treated like malaria. It is not the criminal justice system that deals with it. That is our view.” He also shared the way forward as far as his vision in the enforcement of marijuana was concerned. “When we engaged the MPs, our position was this; first time user, warn the person, an administrative warning.
It must be recorded. You must sit him down and let him understand the consequences. What is the essence of arresting him if you don’t let him know the consequences?” “The second time, warn him again. The third time fine him, an administrative fine, very meagre – GHc50. But the fourth time, it means that there is likely to be a problem, divert him to a drug treatment centre.”
First published on http://citifmonline.com/
Wednesday, 10 August 2016
The West African Drug Policy Network Sierra Leone Chapter (WADPN-SL) on Tuesday 19th July organized one-day training session for its members on ‘Policy Advocacy and Communication Skills’ at FORUT on Main Motor Road, Congo Cross, Freetown.
In his opening remarks, the Communications Officer, Saa Mathias Bendu, welcomed participants and said the session was organised to make civil society actors knowledgeable on what to talk about and also be grounded on issues they address so that they will not encounter any problems with the communities that will deter them from achieving their aims and objectives. He emphasized the importance of knowing what they intend doing as a network and how they go about it.
Head of Foundation for Democratic Initiatives and Development (FDID), Prince Bull, said the network is hoping for drastic changes in the country’s drug laws to enable them go after big time drug traffickers instead of petty drug users.
In his PowerPoint presentation, he highlighted talks on the meaning of advocacy, its goals, strategy, focus on the campaign, understanding the players and the playing field, understanding the decision-making process, definition of public policy and its categories, typologies of policy, public policy cycle and a gender setting.
Prince Bull disclosed that the network will interface with authorities concerned to see drug as a social issue and not a criminal one, which he said will be followed by a news conference and a float parade on 26th July.
By Donstance Koroma, First published on http://www.sierraexpressmedia.com/
West Africa Drug Policy Network Chapter Calls on Sierra Leone Government to Stop Imprisoning Minor Drug Users
The West Africa Drug Policy Network Sierra Leone Chapter (WADPN-SL) in a float parade from Lumley to Aberdeen Beach last weekend called on Government to review the current policy on drug.
Addressing over 150 participants including drug users and commercial sex workers from various parts in Freetown, the Director of Sierra Leone Youth Development and Child Link, (SLYDCL) Habib T. Kamara, said the aim of the float parade was to reach out to those hooked on drugs.
He disclosing that WADPN-SL is currently reaching out to Government to push against punishing minor drug users but to consider them as a public health issue and commence prosecuting and jailing drug producers.
Mr. Kamara added that that the current national drug law was enacted by a certificate of emergency with the social and health aspects completely left out. He called on Government to support the best practices the world is pushing towards targeting the supply chain and stop imprisonment of minor drug users.
The SLYDCL Director alerted the Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone and Standards Bureau to regulate the circulation of Tramadol capsules and KADCO Bitter Kola (a locally distilled alcohol) as they are killing the youths, adding that both products are serious health hazards hence the reason why drug users are at risk of HIV/Aid and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
He stressed that the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA) cannot do it alone and therefore called on like-minded organisations to come onboard and support the initiative.
The National Coordinator WADPN-SL, Aiah Nabieu Mokuwah, said a pack of marijuana for three or six months’ imprisonment is not correct as the criminal justice system hinders youths on drug as majority of inmates in correctional centres are drug related crimes.
He pointed out that as a network, they are advocating for the decriminalisation of drug and the adoption of the use of condom. Free HIV test and the distribution of condoms climaxed the event.
By Donstance Koroma, first published on http://www.sierraexpressmedia.com/
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
The 3rd Executive Course on Human Rights and Drug Policy in West Africa recently hosted (25 - 30 July, 2016) by the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana emphasised the need for Policy Review within the Sub-Region.
In an increasingly interconnected world, Nigeria and the entire West African sub region has become an attractive destination for transnational organized crimes. One of such is drug trafficking.
Drug cartels have always collaborated with local partners to turn the region and their individual nations into major transit routes for illicit drugs. The region has long produced cannabis mainly for local consumption which is the most abused drug. It is now fast becoming a producer and exporter of synthetic drugs such as amphetamine-type stimulant.
According to a report by the West Africa Commission on Drugs released in 2014, drug trade in the sub-region was valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. This justifies the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon’s claim during a UN Security Council debate in 2013 that the annual value of cocaine for example, transiting through West Africa was 1.25 billion US dollars.
This is significantly more than the annual budget of some countries in the region. Ironically, while this may sound lucrative and attractive, it is disheartening to note that virtually all the countries in the region including Nigeria are still among the poorest in the world. The growth in drug trafficking comes as the region is emerging from years of political conflict and prolonged violence.
This instability has left a legacy of fragile state of institutions and weak criminal justice systems that are vulnerable to infiltration and corruption by organized crimes. While democracy has gained ground in the continent, the prevalence of this illicit trade appears to be an eminent threat to its sustenance.
The unwholesome trade has also led to increase in money laundering. Despite efforts in establishing effective anti money laundering regimes, the needs still outweigh the capacity, resources and political will in some instances. There is an urgent need for formidable policies at national and regional levels to contain the menace.
Therefore, nations of the region should move away from the traditional ceremonial burning of seizures of illicit drugs, arrest and torture of users to focus more on drug demand reduction measures which is preventive.
The tendency to focus on numbers of seizures and arrests masks the failure to counter drug related activities of individuals in positions of public trust who do more harm to the society. As a result, it is mostly the small dealers, users or couriers that are arrested. It is also commonplace to see drug addicts being arrested by law enforcement agents with little or no counseling for them to desist from the unholy act.
It can be argued that some get involved in drug use due to pressure and ignorance. Few cases of those who came out of it through counseling show that a policy direction in this regard can save more lives. This is why the World Health Organization, WHO regards drug addiction as a disease and should be treated as a public health issue. The arrest and imprisonment of addicts will certainly increase the burden of feeding and prison congestion on government rather than solve the problem.
Criminalization of drug use and possession places significant pressure on the already over burdened criminal justice systems. More worrisome is the fact that it can cause major disease epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C especially among those who inject drugs with shared syringes.
Countries like Tanzania have adopted harm reduction methods such as providing syringes for drug user to reduce the spread of infections and deaths. In the light of these, the current practice of criminalizing every aspect of the drug trade should be discouraged.
Through regional partnerships such as ECOWAS and the AU, which constitute solid inter-governmental platforms, the authorities can respond to drug trafficking and use effectively. With the external bilateral and multilateral partners as well as the United Nations support, benefiting nations cannot afford to fail in drug policy review in the sub region. Leaders in the area should take advantage of world donors’ advocacy to decriminalize drug policies.
However, given the multi-faceted nature of drug problem, future progress will require enhanced cooperation between governments, specialized services and civil societies in the producing, transit and consumer countries.
This laudable campaign to restore the rights of drug users, anchored by the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana through the support of the Open of Society Initiative for West Africa(OSIWA).
By Terzoo Zamber, a fellow of the 3rd Executive Course on Human Rights and Drug Policy in West Africa