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Non-violent narcotic drug users must be helped - CSO advocates

BY: Haruna Yussif Wunpini
Journalists and resource persons after the training
Journalists and resource persons after the training

Non-violent narcotic drug users must not be imprisoned or discriminated against by the general public, especially families.

Drug users must rather be helped to come out of the problem since it is an addiction and not a criminal offence.

These views were expressed by the Executive Director of the Perfector of Sentiments Foundation (POS), a human rights civil society organisation (CSO), Jonathan Osei Owusu, at a day's sensitisation seminar on the Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020 (Act 1019) for journalists in the Eastern Region.

The event was on the theme: "Understanding the Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020 (Act 1019), the role of the media in health and rights-based best practices in handling people who use drugs in the implementation of the Act”.

Addiction

According to Mr Owusu, drug users were mostly addicted persons who had not caused any harm or inflicted any injuries on people as such it was not necessary to put them in jail since they would come out more hardened to cause harm to people.

He, therefore, appealed to the government to grant amnesty to jailed drug users to enable them to go back to their families and relatives since most of them were the bread winners.

New drug law

According to the Executive Director, Ghana's new drug law sought to treat drug users and their dependence on drugs as a public health issue rather than focusing it on law enforcement, incarceration, punishment and repression.

The new law, Mr Owusu explained, converted the prison term for drug possession for personal use into a fine of between 200-500 penalty units (translating to GH¢2,400-GH¢6,000).

Opinion and religious leaders as well as traditional authorities, the Executive Director said, must join in the crusade to help reform or rehabilitate narcotic drug users in society.

Media role

The media, Mr Owusu pointed out, had a vital role to play in sensitising the public to the stipulations of the Act, hence the need to ensure that they fully understood its proper implementation within the spirit that was intended.

For her part, the Programme Manager of OSIWA, Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, expressed worry about young men being put in prison for various minor offences due to poverty, and added that her organisation would be partnering other organisations to see how best to address the issue.

A Senior Narcotics Control Officer in charge of the Eastern Region, Felix Yeboah Sarfo, said incarcerating drug users worsened their state and supported the decriminalisation of drug use offences.

The Eastern Regional Minister, Seth Kwame Acheampong, for his part, urged the media to help disseminate information on the issue to enable the public to be aware of the problem for resolution.