President Weah Signs Anti-Drugs Bill into Law Amid Return to Liberia
MONROVIA – President George Manneh Weah has affixed his signature to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of 2023, commonly called the Drug Law, effectively making the bill a law.
President Weah signed the bill into law after it was passed by the Liberian Legislature following months of deliberations.
The bill, a work of the Executive, Civil Society and the Legislature spent many months at the Capitol from chambers to chambers, as well as committee rooms.
The final decision comes after a conference committee of both House and Senate harmonized the versions from both Houses and petitioned the House and Senate to pass it, and they did.
The Executive Mansion, in a statement said, the passage and subsequent signing of the law further signifies President Weah’s commitment to fighting illegal drugs and substance abuse, a menace that has plagued the society, endangering and robbing thousands of Liberian youths of a better future.
The legislation comes on the back of several reports categorizing Liberia as one of the highest rates of drug use in West Africa, with cannabis and heroin being the most commonly used.
The reports claimed that males are more likely to use drugs than their female counterparts.
It is estimated that two in ten youths in Liberia are users of narcotic substances. To sustain the desire and use of narcotic drugs, these young people who live in ghettos, street corners, and cemeteries often resort to crimes, including armed robberies.
Many experts believe that the new law, if fully implemented, will help to reduce drug use and drug-related crimes in the country as it sends a strong message to drug dealers that the government is serious about combating drugs.
However, they are of the view that while the law is good, it would not reduce the importation or sale of illicit drugs if a holistic approach that involves aggressive public awareness campaigns, counseling and rehabilitation programs, and the creation of more job opportunities for Liberian youths were neglected.
The signing of the law comes nearly two months after the Government of Liberia lost a landmark drug trafficking case. The Case involved a groupof foreign nationals and a Liberia who are accused by the government of importing and trafficking a batch of cocaine valued at US$100 million.
What’s in the law?
The new anti-drug law aims to regulate, restrict, control, limit, or eradicate the illegal export and importation as well as the flagrant use, abuse, and proliferation of narcotic substances within Liberia.
It groups drugs and controlled substances in categories called “Schedules.” They are grouped in Schedules I II, III and IV.
The law provides penalties for specified offenses such as the unlicensed and unauthorized importation of controlled drugs or substances into the country. It termed the importation of controlled drugs, a felony of the first degree and punishable to a prison term of a minimum of ten years and not exceeding twenty years, consistent with provisions of the Penal Code Section 50.5 and 50.6. The offense shall be a grave offense and shall not be bailable.
It adds: “Where the subject matter of the offense is a drug or substances listed in schedule I, or II, III and IV to be used for the purpose of trafficking, the person shall be guilty of a second-degree felony punishable to a prison term of not less than five years and not exceeding ten years. Where the subject matter of the offense is a drug or substances listed in schedule II, III and IV pursuant to the provisions of section 50.5 and 50.6 of the Penal Law of Liberia.”
“As to the matter of bail,” the Act states “only cash to the value of the bond or cash’ deposit in the bank to the value of the bond as evidenced by a bank certificate.”