Drug-free nation is a utopia — says advocates pushing to decriminalise narcotics use, policy reform |

By James Muonwa

ZIMBABWE, which is currently battling a drugs and substance use scourge, should migrate from criminalising to decriminalise possession and use of drugs, a lobby group has said.

Decriminalisation is a process through which the legislature removes criminal sanctions against an act, omission, article, or behaviour, which is considered a crime.

Addressing journalists attending a drugs decriminalisation sensitisation workshop in Harare this Thursday, Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN) Director, Wilson Box said wishing for a nation in which drugs do not exist is impractical, but authorities must put in place legislation that helps curtail the pandemic and not punishing users.

“A drug-free nation is a utopia. Let us remove all those sentences and give civil penalties for possession and use of little quantities, say for a stub of dagga. We are against blanket laws that punish young men and women who can be rehabilitated,” said Box.

ZCLDN Director, Wlson Box

Decriminalisation, Box said, does not equate to legalising drug possession, use or trafficking.

“Stiff penalties should target drug traffickers which remains a criminal and punishable offence,” he said.

Box said the issue of drugs should be taken as a public health concern. The aim of this approach is to improve health and societal outcomes.

He reiterated that Zimbabwe’s drug laws are outdated and nolonger help in dealing the the rising problem of drugs and substance use, particularly among youths.

“Our laws are archaic and nolonger serve their purpose. Let us move from archaic thinking and move to 21st century solutions,” Box added.

He called for the setting up of up a robust rehabilitation system so that there are not many cases of patients relapsing.

“We are emulating Portugal and Switzerland which have put up ministerial committees with various pillars, including harm reduction pillars. They have also established drugs agencies manned by directors.”

Participants heard during the workshop that jailing those with drug use disorders exposes them to tuberculosis (TB) in prisons while people who inject drugs are 29 times more likely to get HIV/ Aids than stimulant users.

Participants at the drug decriminalisation workshop held in Harare

“Jail is hell for them… We are advocating for decriminalisation as it saves money and promotes health and the lifestyles of people who use drugs,” said Box.

ZCLDN is currently working on a draft motion on decriminalisation to be tabled and debated in the Parliament of Zimbabwe.

The organisation runs the ‘Bestie’ peer-led community outreach programme for people who use and inject drugs (PWUIDS) in their diversity in accessing treatment services.

The programme’s main vision is to ensure PWUIDS are not left behind in accessing treatment services in the fight against HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections.

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