The Liberian Drugs Enforcement Agency has appealed to lawmakers with the Legislature to amend chapter 14 of the country’s Penal Law to ensure that it effectively tackles issue around the manufacturing and trafficking of illicit drugs.
If approved, the amended Penal Law of Liberia under the title, “Offense Involving Danger to the Person”, will see the addition of subchapter (e) under the title, “Controlled drug and substances act of 2014.”
According to LDEA’s Acting Director General, Marcus D. Zehyoue, the amendment is necessarily imperative as the most aggressive step to control both the illicit use and abuse of drugs.
The proposed amendment, Zehyoue said, is to regulate the importation and exportation of controlled drugs or substance, which will reduce its flow in the market to curb the issue of substance abuse that is becoming rampant.
The amendment, he said, will come down hard on individuals who knowingly import and export any controlled drugs or substances without a license from the Minister of Health, making the crime a first and second degree felony and a non-bailable offense.
“It also makes it an offense to sell or offer for sale, or trade, or administer, or dispense, or deliver or give away to another, or distributes or dispatches in transit, or transports any controlled drug and without a license from the Minister,” he said. “In this regard, the person shall be guilty of a felony of the first degree and, if otherwise, shall be guilty of a second-degree felony; which shall serve a sentence between 10 and 20 years as prescribed in Section 50.5 and 50.6 of the Penal Law of Liberia. The offense shall be non-bailable.”
The LDEA’s request comes as the illicit use of controlled drugs or substance abuse, mainly by young people in the country, is widely known. This situation is reflected on the users, thereby begetting them the name ‘Zogo’. Not only that they live in slums and indecent places, they are also adapted to criminal activities; including theft and other violent crimes, to fee their cravings.
It is situation that has led children and adolescents as well as adults, owing to their addictions to drugs to perform informal activities such as doing odd jobs, begging, wandering abnormally and other tormenting behaviors including stealing and armed robbery.
Zehyoue added that while all offenses in the proposed amendment carry the same jail terms, the law is in the right direction to curtail the high illicit flow of drugs in the country since it cannot be done without a license from the Minister of Health.
The LDEA boss further said the new amendment ensures that it is a crime for a person to possess or purchase controlled drugs or substance or to plant, cultivate, or culture or engage in production of plants, which are controlled drugs or substances without a license.
“A person commits an offense if the person engages in the manufacture or preparation of any drugs or substances without a license from the Minister. Also, If the person delivers, possesses, or manufactures equipment, or transports or distributes any instrument, apparatus, and other paraphernalia for controlled drugs or substances knowing, or under circumstances where one reasonably should know, that it will be used to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound convert, extract, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, or contain any controlled drug or substance without a license issued by the Minister,” Zehyoue said.
The LDEA, which is a semi-autonomous agency responsible for effective and efficient enforcement of laws pertaining to controlled drugs, substances and precursors, including essential chemicals, has of late been facing lots of changes in the fight against drug abuse. Currently, the issue is getting rampant as ghettos are spurning out in almost every community.
Some stakeholders in Friday’s consultative meeting were Inspector General Patrick T. Sudue of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Mr. Julius Togba of the West Africa Drug Policy Network, Acting Chief of Pharmacy Thomas Jallah, Acting Assistant Education Minister Johnson Hinneh, and the Health Ministry’s Controlled Substance coordinator, David Z. Sakui.
Others were the Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia, Musa Kenneth; the Deputy Secretary General of the Federation of Liberian Youth, Flomo Maiwo among others.
Meanwhile, the host of the one-day stakeholder meeting, Grand Bassa County District #5 Representative Thomas Goshua, said the meeting was aimed at soliciting views pertaining to the act to amend chapter 14 of the new Penal Law of Liberia under title “Offense Involving Danger to the Person“by adding thereto subchapter (e) under the title.
He said the meeting was also intended to buttress the LDEA technical committee who is already working on the law to be sponsored for amendment.
“Our action is also intended to get rid of drugs from the streets,” Rep. Goshua said.
However, there are no reports whether the final draft of the proposed amendments will be ready for submission, deliberation, and subsequent approval, while other reports said otherwise. Pundits said the Legislature is expected to extend for two weeks its extra sitting, October 1 – 15, because the 2020/2021 national budget is still under scrutiny.