The joint sitting of Parliament passed the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse bill (NDPSSA) with majority of 66 of 69 members presented voted ‘yes’ on 11th May. The bill originally had 15 clauses which were not agreed by both the house. The joint committee met for more than three days and has revised the clauses mostly pertaining to fines and penalties with an objective to help the country, community, people and youths.
Member of Parliament (MP) of the Bardo-Trong constituency and the chairperson of the joint committee, Lekey Dorji, said “the bill is very important as it seeks to severely penalize drug traffickers. It also provides a compulsory treatment to drug dependents.” The government hopes the amended bill will control the possession of drugs as well as reduce the drug trafficking and drug abuse in the country, as the penalties have been increased. “The new law is expected to clean up the streets off the controlled substances and reduce access to drugs as trafficking invites stiff sentences. It will surely benefit citizens and communities,” he added.
The penalties range from a minimum of 3 years to a maximum of life sentences based on severity and quantities of drugs in possession or trafficked. The chairman emphasized they would deter people from even thinking of profiting from drugs and, as a consequence, creating a huge social problems in the country.
The joint committee presented its recommendation of NDPSSA. “There are a few changes of words, but the main ideas of all 15 clauses have been retained,” Lekey Dorji said. The section (111) of the NDPSSA states that “the manufacture, production, sale, export, import, storage, distribution, transportation and trans-shipment of controlled drugs and substances for medical and scientific purposes in contravention of the terms or conditions of the license shall be liable to cancellation of the license and seizure of goods or a fine equivalent to a minimum wage for a maximum of five years, or both.” He stressed that major principle in the amendment of the bill is how the law treats drug dependents and illicit drug traffickers. The state is mandated to provide drug dependants the proper treatments and after-care services.
Illicit traffickers will receive a sentence of felony of fourth degree to felony of first degree based on the degree of severity, according to the recommendation of the joint committee. A drug-dependent person who is also an illicit drug trafficker cannot hide behind the benign treatment in law as there are other provisions.
The Speaker of the National Assemble, Jigme Zangpo, commended the efforts put in by the joint committee, as a result of which the bill was passed without much contention.
The law implementing agency, Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA, renamed from Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency), will work closely with Royal Bhutan Police, Drug Regulatory Authority, Bhutan Agriculture Food Regulatory Authority, and other stakeholders.