KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 — Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad emphasised in a statement yesterday that the government’s recent announcement to decriminalise drug users and addiction did not amount to legalisation of drug abuse.
He described the initiative as a significant game-changer involving the removal of criminal penalties for possession and usage of a small quantity of drugs.
His statement drew a distinction between drugs for personal use and for trafficking. Dzulkefly stressed that the trafficking of drugs would remain a crime under the law.
He called on the development of a rational drug policy which places drug users as patients to be treated, with addiction as a disease to be cured. Decriminalisation of drugs would be a critical step towards the realisation of such a policy.
Dzulkefly stressed on the need to refer to evidence from more than 30 countries which has proven that decriminalisation did not increase drug use or encourage drug related crimes.
He recently joined Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on this issue. The latter agreed that the Home Ministry would define drug users as “patients” and focus on “cure and care” rather than punishing drug addiction.
Among measures being considered, Muhyiddin has said that his ministry was considering removing drug addicts, users, and possessors from registration under the Registration of Criminals and Undesirable Persons Act 1969. This would contribute towards the commitment to decriminalise.
However, both have stressed that “decriminalisation” of drug use did not mean amending or repealing current laws.
Doctors’ groups have welcomed the government’s move to decriminalise drug use by treating addiction as a disease rather than a criminal offence.