Govt to form committee to speed up decriminalisation of drug addiction

pic by TMR FILE

THE government will form a committee to speed up the process of decriminalising drug addiction, spearheaded by the Home Ministry and the Youth and Sports Ministry.

This followed a special committee meeting chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Oct 15, 2019, in which efforts to decriminalise drug use was among the topics discussed.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (picture) said last week the Cabinet had agreed to form a committee to speed up the process to decriminalise drug possession and personal use.

“Following both meetings, the Home Ministry was given the responsibility to spearhead the effort.

“To accelerate the decriminalisation, the committee will also involve the Youth and Sports Ministry and the chief secretary to the government,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Syed Saddiq emphasised that his ministry’s stand is to separate the treatment for drug addicts and drug distributors.

“Drug addicts are not criminals and are not supposed to be imprisoned. They are categorised under drug addiction, not distribution,” he said, adding that drug trafficking will undoubtedly remain a crime.

In June this year, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad announced that the government was set to introduce the “significant game-changer policy” of decriminalising drugs.

The move is a crucial step “towards achieving a rational drug policy which puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration”, he said in a statement.

Dr Dzulkefly said an addict shall be treated as a patient (not as a criminal), whose addiction is a disease the government would like to cure.

He also insisted that it does not mean that Malaysia is seeking to legalise drugs.

Under existing law, people found using drugs can be fined and jailed, and just half of over 65,000 inmates in the country’s prisons are there after being found guilty of drug possession.

Malaysia is known for having the harshest penalties for drug possession. Anyone found with 200g (7.05oz) of cannabis, 1kg (2.2lb) of opium, 40g (1.41oz) of cocaine and 15g (0.53oz) of heroin or morphine could be charged with drug trafficking, which carries the death penalty.

As of end-2018, youth addiction cases stood at a staggering 18,967, three times higher than that of adults, which is at 6,500.

“We want to opt for rehabilitation, instead of making drug addicts criminals. As of now, after a drug addict is prosecuted, he/she will have a criminal record and that would be a pullback factor should they return to the community and resume life as usual,” Syed Saddiq said.

Once the move to decriminalise drug addiction is passed, Malaysia would join over 30 countries which have adopted a similar policy.