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  • Writer's pictureWADPN

Decriminalize, Don’t Criminalize Drugs

No human being was born with sling of marijuana, a big bottle of concentrated or a stick of cigarette; society makes him or her drug addict. Drug addicts now constitute a considerable percentage of the world population and drug abuse has, of course, sent thousands of resourceful people to untimely graves apart from being a main cause of violence and heightened crime rate in many countries in the West Africa sub region and the world at large.

Most countries on planet Earth frown at and criminalize drugs and drug abuse for which many are languishing behind bars but the situation seems to be getting worse as drugs and drug abusers keep multiplying alarmingly, tending to discredit the legal approach towards solving the thorny global problem. But does it make sense to decriminalize drugs?

The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WASCI) with the support of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, (OSIWA), the West Africa Drug Policy Network and other partners are now trying to market the idea of decriminalizing drugs as a better alternative to solve the problem of rampant drug abuse. WASCI and partners have been training media practitioners on the impact of drug addicts on families, communities, regions and countries and one such training is expected to take place in Ghana in early August this year after a similar training held in the same country in early June.

The coming training seeks to sharpen Journalists’ understanding of drug issues in the Country in view of harnessing their information gathering and reporting skills on drug related issues. The training will provide an opportunity for participants to gain a better understanding on how they can utilized their unique positions as opinion leaders and agenda setters in Ghana to strategically and consistently cover drug related issues in the Country in a way that will holistically benefit all sectors of the Ghanaian populace.

WASCI and its partners are bent on minimizing drug addiction and its impact on societies in, particularly, the West Africa Sub region by using a milder method-massive anti-drug sensitization and drug decriminalization. This idea makes a whole lot of sense as the criminalization of drugs and the legal approach to solving the problem seem not to have yielded the required results as drug addicts are on the high increase.

Imprisoning a juvenile for a sling of Cannabis Sativa will only worsen his addiction for in prison; he is most likely to interact with hard core criminals and chronic addicts who will lead him into more addiction. Why not simply counsel such a juvenile to see the reason to away from drugs after educating him on the dangers involved. That juvenile may be undergoing stress that makes him smoke the hemp just to temporarily get over it. Why not diagnose and solve the problem of that juvenile, reform him and integrate him into society. What is the wisdom of jailing that juvenile till he dies behind bars? So many notorious drug addicts, when reformed, end up being great men or women in society.

Hence, the drug decriminalization drive of WASCI and partners is a sensible idea that must be bought. But WASCI and partners need to come and sell this idea to Sierra Leone where drug addicts have mushroomed and are perpetually arrested and imprisoned by law enforcement agents while many people in our society take them to be outcasts that deserve no place in society save the prison cells.

Adeyemi Paul,  Journalist of Sierra Express Media in Sierra Leone



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