Former Executive Secretary of the Narcotic Control Commission, Yaw Akrasi Sarpong has urged the law enforcement agencies in the country not to center so much on arrests and prosecutions of persons using drugs such as weed, for personal use.
According to him, the new Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020, Act 1019, passed on March 20, 2020, and assented to by the President, Nana Akufo-Addo on May 11, 2020, “treats drug use and dependence as a public health issue rather than focusing on enforcement, incarceration, punishment and repression”.
Mr. Sarpong made the comment while addressing police prosecutors and detectives at a training workshop on ensuring the effective implementation of the Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020, Act 1019 in Kumasi, organized by the Perfecter of Sentiment(POS) Foundation, a human rights civil society organization which focuses its activities in the areas of access to justice, human rights, policy reforms, youth development and social accountability.
He explained that people who use drugs rather need help “as it is a public health issue just like someone suffering from malaria or ulcer”.
Mr. Sarpong stressed the importance of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors being abreast of the law and knowing their roles in its application.
He does not understand why the State should imprison someone for possession of some weed for personal use and also spend huge money to take care of the person in jail.
“I am not encouraging people to use drugs/weed, it can be addictive, but let us differentiate between private life and public safety”, he indicated.
Mr. Akrasi Sarpong mentioned that the new law allows someone to possess a certain quantity of weed for daily use.
“The Police are usually the first point of contact, their role in safety and security of citizens is very important, hence the need to ensure proper implementation of the new law within the spirit that is intended,” he stressed.
He suggested to policymakers to make cultivation of weed legal for exports that could rake in foreign currency as many countries in the world have legalized the substance.
Executive Director of POS, Jonathan Osei-Wusu, on his part, also noted that drug use was a public health and human rights issue and described it as a “substance use disorder”.
He said, “it has been tested and proven all over the world that substance use disorder is not an issue of criminality where people are to be sentenced but rather need help.”
He pointed out that rehabilitation had been provided under the new law for the State and government to help such people be reformed.
Jonathan Osei-Wusu further kicked against sentencing people using drugs for relaxation, when he/she has not killed anyone or caused any violence.
He indicated that if such people were sentenced for smoking the substance, “they come out hardened to be more problematic to the society”.
Ms. Maria-Goretti Ane Loglo, with the International Drug Policy Consortium, said Ghana has become an example for many West African states for reviewing its drug policies and that there was the need to take further steps in the implementation of the law “so that we get it all right for others to follow”.