It is Time for A Public Health Approach to the Illicit Drug Problem in Liberia
The Senate Committee Chairman on Youth and Sports has called for the decriminalisation of drug use and to consider it from a public health perspective. Senator Commany Wesseh explained that the drug law should be reformed in order for the traffickers to be heavily dealt with rather than enforce punitive measure on the problematic drug users.
He made the call at the opening of a two-day engagement which was organised by the West African Drug Policy Network (WADPN) – Liberian Chapter in collaboration with the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) with members from the Legislature on drug law reforms in Monrovia.
The Rivergee County lawmaker made an appeal to the Liberian Drug Enforcement Agency to educate its members on how to handle drug users, considering them as people with a health problem.
In his remarks, the Head of Capacity Development Unit from the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), Charles Kojo Vandyck, said the engagement with the Liberian lawmakers is intended to make an appeal to reform the existing Liberian drug law to place more emphasis on public health approaches.
“There is a need for law enforcement agencies in Liberia to focus on measures to curtail the drug trade rather than emphasising the sentencing on drug users to years of imprisonment,” he added.
The meeting was graced by Senators Jim Tornolar, Commany Wesseh and representatives of the Legislature, the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency and the Health Ministry.
This parliamentary engagement feeds into a regional advocacy work led by the WADPN, pushing for a shift in the current approach towards the drug issue. This meeting served as an occasion to share copies of the Model Drug Law for West Africa which was launched recently in Dakar.
The Model Drug Law provides legislative provision and commentary which incorporate the obligations of the three UN drug control treaties, and take into account the outcomes and commitments from the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the drug problem, as well as the existing evidence of effectiveness, the need for greater harmonisation of drug laws in the region, and the current gaps in the legislation.