A Senior Policy and Operations Manager of the International Drug Policy Consortium, Jamie Bridge, has advocated a ‘balanced drug policy’ as a surer way of tackling drug related issues in West Africa.
He said the existing Drug Policy, “The War On Drugs”, is not yielding any positive result in curbing the menace, despite its 50 years of implementation, globally.
The IDPC Senior Policy and Operations Manager was speaking in an interview with Modern Ghana at the closing ceremony of a two-day workshop on Drug Policy in West Africa, organized by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and IDPC in Accra.
The workshop was held in partnership with the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), the Kofi Annan Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with participants from over forty civil society organizations (CSOs) in West African countries.
According to Mr. Bridge, a balanced drug policy should decriminalise drug use cases and rather view them as health matters that need medical attention.
He said the current policy, “The War On Drug”, which only focuses on the arrest and detention or jailing of drug users was inadequate because a drug user should not even end up in prison.
He argued that the prison should be reserved for drug cartels or traders who he called “the big fishes” because they are making big money out of it and sometimes using poor people for the business.
“The prison must be reserved for the big fishes and not the drug users. The drug user must not even end up in prison; they could end up using more and even dangerous drugs whilst in prison; they shouldn’t die in prison. Drug use cases must be seen as other health cases which need medical attention,” Jamie Bridge stated.
He said instead of arresting and jailing drug users, the stakeholders (the government, security agencies and the community) must rather have enough resources to support the drug users.
The IDPC Senior Operations Manager said there were not enough health facilities in West Africa to cater for drug use cases and said there was the need for the stakeholders to channel their funds and energy towards providing health facilities than arresting and keeping drug users.
He called on all stakeholders to come on board in making a better global Drug Policy.
“We are not going to change the laws right away; we invite all stakeholders to come on board so we have a debate, talk more and openly about drug, and be honest with the issues,” Jamie said.
A participant of the workshop, Mr. Christian Lokko, who works with Remar Ghana, a non-governmental organization (NGO) in rehabilitation, and who himself was a drug user for over twenty-five (25) years, reiterated the need for the decriminalization of drug use cases.
Speaking at length with Modern Ghana about his personal experience as a former drug addict, Mr. Lokko said the situation demands more care and medical attention rather than arrest and detention in prison for many years and eventually the death of the drug user.
He took the opportunity to advise the youth to stay away from the use of hard drugs, cannabis, cocaine and marijuana because it only leads to destruction.
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