The Narcotics Control Commission (NACOC) has cautioned the public not to see the new Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019) as freedom to misuse narcotic drugs.
Acting Deputy Director-General of NACOC, Michael Addo, explained that the new law seeks to offer a system of punishment which allows a court to order a person who purchased narcotics for personal use to seek treatment and rehabilitation, without necessarily being incarcerated.
This according to him is a great relief because now there is an alternative to prison for such offenders. He however quickly added that the provision, in no terms, implies the legalisation or decriminalisation of drug use in Ghana.
He stressed that the use of narcotics still remains an offence under the Act.
Mr Addo was speaking at a two-day workshop on the Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019) in Accra.
The workshop was organised by the POS Foundation, a civil society organisation, in partnership with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), and the West Africa Drug Policy Network (WADPN), with support from the Open Society Foundation.
It was under the theme: “Understanding the Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019). The role of law enforcement and prosecutors in health, rights-based best practices to handling people who use drugs in the implementation of the Act.”
Act 1019 was passed by Parliament on March 20, 2020, and officially became law after it was assented to by President Akufo-Addo on May 11, 2020.
It overhauled the country’s fight against narcotics, changing the then Narcotic Control Board into a commission, with a new focus not only on investigations into narcotics related offences and arrest of such offenders, but also with a mandate to reduce the demand and use of narcotic drugs through education, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with substance use disorders.
Mr Addo said drug abuse is a problem that can befall any individual with ripple effect on society.
He urged the public not to shun persons who have fallen victim to drugs but rather show them love and affection.
Executive Director of POS Foundation, Jonathan Osei Owusu, said the passage of Act 1019 enabled Ghana to join the global community to tackle narcotic abuse as a public health issue and not a crime.
He said the criminalisation of drug use adds burden to the already overcrowded prisons.
A representative from the Prisons Service said the introduction of an exclusive non-custodial alternative is a step in the right direction.
He said the amended drug law will go a long way to mitigate the spate of overcrowding in the prisons.
A Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bright Mensah, who chaired the event, said the new law, though, has the power to punish drug-related offences, it also focuses on human rights and public health approach as opposed to mere incarceration of offenders.