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Drug cases increase despite strict laws

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) saw an increase of more than 76 percent in the number of cases related to drugs in the past two years.

Police had referred 474 drug-related cases last year, excluding tobacco, and 363 cases in 2016.

Looking at the statistics of drugs offences referred for prosecution every year, the OAG stated that the strict laws were not effective to curtail the issue.

OAG annual report 2017 states: “Stringent provisions of the law seem to have less or no deterrence effect on curtailing the abuse of drugs or the number of drug peddlers as cases are on the continuous rise.”

The OAG stated that there was a need for a detailed understanding of how a long-term solution to tackle the social menace could be agreed upon. “A reformative approach is certainly an option that is gaining popularity and support elsewhere.”

There was no case related to illegal possession of cannabis and its derivatives in 2016, but OAG prosecuted 100 such cases last year.

The highest increase was in the number of illicit trafficking of narcotic drug and psychotropic substances from 247 in 2016 and 278 in 2017.

The number of charge sheets to court increased from none to 10 cases of illegal sale of inhalant or solvent, and 80 cases of illicit trafficking of cannabis and its derivatives last year. 

The cases of tobacco also increased from 15 in 2016 to 26 last year.

OAG attributed the drastic increase in drug cases in the past two years to stringent provisions in the law mainly the Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act 2015.

The act quantified the amount of drugs, which resulted in redefining trafficking as opposed to the conventional understanding of what trafficking would constitute.

The act listed all narcotic and psychotropic substances, authorising only Parliament to add or delete substances in the schedule or the whole schedule and/or quantification of any of the substances deemed to be abused or trafficked.

This gave way to a new challenge in 2017 when a new drug Spasmoproxyvon Plus hit the black market replacing Spasmoproxyvon. The objectives of the NDPSSAA 2015 were put to test with numerous cases in court.

The Supreme Court directed the Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency to amend the list in the schedules and the Parliament also subsequently amended the Act giving the power to amend the lists to BNCA.

Tshering Palden

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