Court exposes drug law loophole

The Phuentsholing Dungkhag court convicted Thinley Dorji only on charges of illegal possession of 25 grams of cannabis and 10 tablets of Nitrosun10 (N10) on 10th May. The convict had also been in possession of 126 capsules of Spasmo-Proxyvon Plus when he was arrested by Phuentsholing police in October last year.

The accused had submitted to the court that the chemical ingredient in Spasmo-Proxyvon Plus, tramadol, was not mentioned in any schedule of the Bhutan Narcotics and Drugs Act. Dextropropoxyphene, the opioid content of Spasmo-Proxyvon is placed in Schedule 7 of the act.

The state prosecutor had argued that regardless of the specificity of chemicals the intent of the legislature was to combat and minimize drug abuse and presented a pharmacist from the Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) to testify in court.

However the judgement dated 10th May 2016 said that there was only confirmation of the absence of Dextropropoxyphene from the capsules Thinley Dorji was arrested with.

Hence, according to 187.3 and 210 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan, the charges to the accused are altered and he is sentenced to two years in prison, the court judgment read.

Talking to The Bhutanese, BNCA Senior Pharmacist Gyeltshen said that Tramadol is also a narcotic and psychotropic substance and with an unlimited number of chemicals out there sticking to a written list would only mean that criminals would target only those chemicals not in the list.

The charge of illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances in excess of twice the maximum amount is a third degree felony and punishable by five to nine years in prison.

The OAG has appealed and the case is being heard at the Chukha District Court in Tsimasham. Cannabis, N10 and SpasmoProxyvon are respectively classified under Schedule I, III and IV of the Narcotics and Drugs Act of Bhutan. The quantities stated under Schedule VII up to which the crime will be that of illegal possession, a misdemeanor, are 50grams for cannabis, 15 tablets for N10 and 10 capsules for SP. Possession in excess of these quantities are graded as felonies.

Both Dextropropoxyphene and Tramadol are opoids, used as pain relievers and are addictive.

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