Sierra Leone May adopt a Better Drug Policy that is Health-Focused, Embracing Harm-Reduction and Gro
True to be told, our nation has been and still continues to arrest and convict in large number citizens found in possession of marijuana. Even a tiny joint could cost them a fine of at least Le 500,000(US$80) and/or imprisonment for six months or both, when convicted by any of our Magistrate Courts across the country.
Come to think of it, most Sierra Leoneans are living on less than a dollar a day. What about the downtrodden youths, “the poorest of poor”? Their families run helter shaker to raise the money to pay the fines, few household items are sold. When the amount is not enough and loans are not available from neighbors, there is no option but to serve jail terms. Our correctional centres across the country are over-crowned with inmates, mostly for minor offences of possessing weed (cannabis sativa) and for frequenting an area notorious for accessing and puffing marijuana.
Yes! Our correctional centre are over-crowned, especially the maximum male correctional center in Freetown; but the correctional officers, in collaboration with the National HIV/AID Secretariat, are doing fantastic jobs for inmates. Sensitization and voluntary HIV/AID test are done, with treatment provided to those affected.
Factual, that our pharmacy and Drugs Acts of 2001 and National Drugs Control Acts of 2008, are fashioned in line with the failed Drug War, punitive actions-incarceration. Though we are still using these archaic laws, campaigners are currently optimistic that Sierra Leone may soon have a better drug policy grounded on human rights, public health and harm-reduction.
How? You may ask! Coming events, they say, cast their shadows. The utterances of senior government officers (especially those who are to play a vital role in the reformation of our current drug law, and the draftiing of our national drug policy- which we don’t have). On their current perspective on the drug issue all in-line with the global and regional clarion called for drug laws and policies to be health focus – harm reduction and grounded in human rights.
One is therefore bound to build confidence in the recent remarks of such stakeholders, like the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, during the Pre-Legislative hearing on the 2017 Finance Bill in Parliament. The compassionate statement for youth incarceration for drug-abuse and Government’s intention of enacting laws to change the long prison terms, to community work, and giving warning to first time offenders by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Rtd Major Alfred Palo Conteh on 26 June, 2017 at Hasting were the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was observed.
Actions taken by government are also encouraging signs that are giving hope to campaigners that something positive on the drug issue is aboutto happen in Sierra Leone; like the appointed Rtd Bridger Danel Yapo Sesay as the Executive Director of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. The Rtd Bridger is a disciplinarian and an affable person whose doors are open to campaigners and other partners in the fight against drug-related issues in Sierra Leone.
The Current Bill before Parliament sent by the judiciary department which has something to do with Bail, types sentence for minor offenders, first time offenders etc. We (The Sierra Leone Chapter of West Africa Drug Policy Network) are of the strongest conviction that those utterances, the appointment of the right people to head key institutions like NDLEA and the current Bill before our Parliament are forerunners and or the biblical “John the Baptism’ preparing the way and laying the solid foundation for a better Drug Policy that is Health-Focused, Embracing Harm-Reduction and Grounded on Human Rights. Watch out, West Africa here we come!