CSOs Want Lawmakers Go Beyoung Passing Drugs Law

Days after the Legislature concorded and passed the long-awaited drug law, several civil society organizations against illicit drugs, under the banner “WE THE PEOPLE,” has called on the Liberian government to go beyond the passing of the drugs law and exercise the political will on its implementation.

The legislative instrument was passed by that august body in an open session making the law a non-bailable offense for importers, distributors, and custodians (producers).

In November of this year, the House of Representatives passed the amendment to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act of 2014 during its Special Sitting and sent it to the Senate for concurrence, as the bill seeks to make drug possession and its use non-bailable.

However, the Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary headed by Senator Varney Sherman, recommended plenary, the passage of the bill with key categories specified.

Debating the committee’s recommendations, several senators including Abraham Darius Dillon, Gbleh-Bo Brown, Milton Teahjay, Stephen Zargo, and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence among others, stressed the categories of violators.

The senators specified that the importers, distributors, custodians, and mass producers of drugs shall fall in the category of non-bailable offense.

They added that end users of the drugs shall be in the category of bailable offense whereas, individuals found in violation of the law will be entitled to a bill.

Our Legislative Reporter assigned to the Liberian Senate said a total of 23 senators voted in favor of the bill being passed, while Senator Botoe Kanneh of Gbarpolu County abstained.

Senate Pro-temp Albert Chie has constituted a conference committee headed by Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Varney Sherman to determine the specific punishments for violators of the amended drugs law.

However, “WE THE PEOPLE” is a conglomeration of key anti-drugs advocacy groups including, West Africa Drugs Policy Network, LIB Records Foundation, Movement for Transformation And Reintegration of Wayward Youths, Liberia National Institute on Drugs and Crimes, YOUTH AGAINST DRUGS, WOMEN AND CHILDREN EMPOWERMENT, BROTHER OF WINGS, among others want to exercise political will.

Addressing a news conference in Monrovia during the weekend, former Senator of Maryland County and spokesperson of the group, Ambassador John Ballouts termed the legislature as laudable and welcoming, noting that the law is meant to boost the fight against illicit drugs across Liberia.

The “We The People” spokesperson averred that the fight against drugs goes beyond the passage of the strong, referencing the usual by some Liberian citizens that the country has good laws but lacks the proper implementation.

He noted that this current drugs law if finally signed by the President of Liberia and printed in a handbill, cannot fall victim to such belief and complacency.

The group, “We The People” wants the Coalition for Democratic Change government headed by President George Weah to impartially exercise the political will to the full implementation of the drugs law now before it becomes difficult to do in 2023 at which time all politicians will be focused on getting the votes of the very youths who are falling prey to illicit drugs.

The spokesperson at the same time disclosed a planned nationwide protest action by the group against illicit drugs and their infiltration in Liberia to be held on December 10, 2022, as part of the fight and desire of having a strong impact on the society, which will involve all partners of the group beginning with the government.

Ambassador John Ballouts said the protest will highlight the danger of illicit drugs and the cries of the Liberian people and also demand the immediate end of such activity by sending an unequivocal and bold statement to the national government that enough is enough and drugs must be eradicated.

The former Senator stressed that drugs remain the most threatening thing to the well-being of the future of the citizens, considering the growing the increasing numbers of ghettos across the country.

He also believes that drug dealers have now infiltrated the young people, going beyond the streets and entering the various high schools while school administrators are confiscating hardcore drugs from students in the classroom.

This, the former Senator said has triggered the formation of a strong collective force comprising over 20 organizations, including the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), Liberia National Students Union (LINSU), various universities, the religious community, and the media to stand tall against illicit drugs.

Ambassador Ballouts indicated that the common statement, “United we stand; divided we fall” remains key to everyone despite their political or social background in tackling this national emergency with urgency, adding that in this first, the Liberian Government in collaboration with international partners is the group’s major partner.

Also speaking, the Focal Person for the Liberia Chapter of the West Africa Drugs Policy Network, Muriel Payne Weah thanked the National Legislature for the bold step taken in passing the drugs law.

Madam Weah also expressed optimism that before the date set for their nationwide protest, the legislative instrument would be printed in the handbill.

Like the other organizations expressed in the press conference, the WADPN’s Boss indicated that the Legislature has acted exactly in the line with the recommendations submitted to that august body aims at instituting tougher punishments for violators of the law.

By: Daniel T. Cole

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