By Cecil Mensah
The Ghana chapter of West Africa Drug Policy Network, with assistance from the West Africa Civil Society Initiative (WACSI), has expressed concerns about the policy of punishing drug users, instead of reforming them.
The two Civil Society groups, relayed this comment at a forum to mark the international day of drug on the theme:” Reform Policies to support and not Punish Drug Users in Ghana” in Accra.
The participants at the forum, were made up of ex-drug users, academia, it also included, Timothy Bentum and Martins Kpebu, a renowned actor, a former drug user and a legal practitioner, respectively.
Welcoming the participants, Madam Onolara T. Balogun, a Policy Advocacy Officer at WACSI, said criminalizing drug use was worrying and has over the years, contributed greatly to the congestion in the prisons in the country.
She urged the policy makers to take a second look at the laws criminalizing drug use in the country.
“Government must take a look at the laws and policies being enacted to tackle some of the issues affecting drug use and push for law reforms,” she explained
She called on participants to raise awareness on issues affecting drug users with the campaign “Support Don’t Punish”.
She said, drugs use has harmed many, but bad policies have harmed the lives of many more.
According to reports available to The Herald, Ghana has been ranked third in the world on Marijuana use.
The reports say Ghana, is behind Papau New Guinea and Micronesia with 29 percent each.
The findings revealed in 2014, coupled with statistics from the Narcotics Control Board (NACCOB), shows about fifty thousand peoples in Ghana, particularly the youth, abuse drugs.
The reports said, these drug users can be found in 275 administrative districts in all the ten regions of the country.
About 35, 000 of this figure are students from junior or Senior high schools and tertiary institutions, aged between 12 and 35 years while the remaining 15,000 are adults with 9,000 being males and 6,000 females.
The reports said, majority of these drug users are predominantly in the three Northern regions, representing 30.000, Western region 4,000, Brong Ahafo 1, 300 and Central region 1,700.
The report added that, despite Ghana’s current stringent laws that sanction drugs users in the country; it was still on the ascendency.