GS Paper – 2 (Health)

The Canadian government has decided to allow the province of British Columbia (BC) to decriminalise the possession of a small amount of illicit drugs for 3 years on an experimental basis. The pilot project begins from 31 Jan 2023. With rising overdose deaths in the province, it is hoped that by eliminating criminal penalties, there will be a reduction of fear and shame for users that need medical help.

What is the ‘war on drugs’?

  1. In 1971, then US President Richard Nixon held a press conference and declared drug abuse, public enemy number one.
  2. He said that “a new, all out offensive” was required, that would be “worldwide” in nature.
  3. Ten years earlier, the UN had passed the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which sought to prohibit the production and supply of various substances through international cooperation.
  4. This marked the beginning of a global campaign to eradicate the use of illicit drugs and its production, called the ‘War on Drugs’.

What about India?

  1. In India, drug consumption or possession is a criminal offence. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 is the main legislation dealing with drugs and their trafficking.
  2. Currently, the NDPS Act only adopts a reformative approach towards addicts. It gives addicts immunity from prosecution and imprisonment (if found guilty) if they volunteer to undergo treatment and rehabilitation.
  3. However, there is no provision for relief or exemption for, say, first-time users or recreational users.
  4. Section 27 of the NDPS Act prescribes imprisonment of up to a year or a fine of up to Rs 20,000, or both, for consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. It makes no distinction between addicts, first-time users and recreational users.