Health Minister: Move to decriminalise drugs is not same as legalising drugs

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 1: Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad says drugs addicts should be treated as patients and not criminals.

In a statement today, he expressed belief that drug decriminalisation is a critical next step towards achieving a rational drug policy that puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration.

An addict shall be treated as a patient (not as a criminal), whose addiction is a disease we will like to cure, he said.

He pointed out that decades of evidence have clearly demonstrated that decriminalisation is a sensible path forward that would reap vast human and fiscal benefits, while protecting families and communities.

He also revealed that more than 30 countries have embarked on this agenda of decriminalisation and research has shown that decriminalisation does not increase drug use, does not increase drug related crimes, reduces the costs in the criminal justice system and improves social outcomes.

Dr Dzulkefly said that this is an important journey that the government is about to undertake and that the nation must tread on it with care and tact.

He also cited the late and former Secretary General of United Nation Kofi Annan as saying “…Drugs have destroyed many lives, but wrongheaded governmental policies have destroyed many more. I think it’s obvious that after 40 years of war on drugs, it has not worked. There should be decriminalization of drug.”…

Dr Dzulkefly said that decriminalisation is not to be mistaken for legalising drug and emphasised that decriminalising does not mean that the government is legalising drugs.

He explained that decriminalisation of drug addicts and addiction is the removal of criminal penalties for possessing and using a small quantity of drugs for personal use, as opposed to those who are involved in trafficking of drugs.

Trafficking of drugs will undoubtedly remain a crime,” he added.

He also pointed out that drug use and addiction is a complex chronic relapsing medical condition.

There are many factors that lead someone to drug use and addiction — there may be a genetic predisposition, the surrounding environment such as poverty, family breakdown, school and peer pressure can all make someone to start using drugs,” he explained.

He pointed that if someone continues to take drugs, biological changes start happening in their brain.

Therefore it is not so easy to reverse that biological change and certainly putting them in prison is not going to change that. It is not just a matter of someone having a weak will power,” he said. — DayakDaily