Following the Introduction of the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substance & Substance Abuse (NDPSSA) Bill, 2014 by the Health Minister, Tandin Wangchuk, on November 25, the National Council further discussed on a few significant provisions in NDPSSA that creates social predicaments.
The Health Minister said the NDPSSA Act, 2005 needs to be revised as the regulatory and procedural requirement for control and management of prohibited drugs and substances are inadequate, and the description and categorizations of drug-related offences were not clearly outlined.
Lyonpo added that the government had directed the Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency and the Office of the Attorney General to revise the Act, as a priority. He reported that a petition signed by 13,400 concerned citizens was received by the government for urgent revision of the Act.
Further, Lyonpo said the NDPSSA Act, 2005 lacks the penal provisions for drug-related offences, determining the magnitude of drug-related offences, silent on the need and validity of drug test requirements, and inadequate listing of the commonly abused drugs.
During the deliberations, the House looked at the establishment of the Narcotics Control Board, appointment of its board members, and powers and functions of the board. The House also discussed on the establishment of Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority, appointment of its Head, and powers and functions of the authority.
In regard to the issue of whether a woman suspected of possessing controlled substances is to be checked by a woman, the House, unanimously, agreed to retain the provision, as under unavoidable circumstances, a man will also be able to check a suspected woman, witnessed by another woman.
The Trongsa MP, Tharchen, raised concerns on taking cautious means in the burial and disposal of the seized substances and controlled drugs, to ensure that the environment or the air is not polluted through burning of such materials.
Meanwhile, the House recognized the importance of the provision on rewarding the informant and discussed that the people should be encouraged to report the authorities, without the fear of consequence, if they happen to see someone in possession or abusing controlled substance.
However, the House was of the view that informant on drugs cases are different from the informant of other illegal businesses, as the substance abuse and use of control substances have outrageous negative impact on society, especially on the youth.
The Samtse MP, Sangay Khandu, pointed out that the law must look into appropriate measures to deal with the inhalants and solvents, namely Dendrite, correction fluids and nail polish removers, which are sold openly in the market and used for various purposes.
The MPs also sought clarifications on the amount of drugs that a person found with should be deemed ‘possession’, and the limits beyond which would be regarded as ‘trafficking’, as a person may possess just a few grams more above the limit set for ‘possession’, but would tantamount to trafficking, and liable for severe penalties.