At long last, the Plenary of the Liberian Senate has concurred with the House of Representatives on the passage of the New Drug Laws, making the use of illegal drugs a non – bailable offense.
The Senate’s decision followed a conference committee report, submitted to the plenary on Tuesday, seeking to enact into law ‘’An Act to Amend Chapter 14 of the New Penal Law of Liberia Under the Title: “Offense Involving Danger to the Person” by adding thereto Subchapter ‘E’ Under the Title: Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of 2014,” now ‘’Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of 2023”.
In 2021 The Plenary of The House of Representatives passed and forwarded the Act to the Liberian Senate for onward deliberation and concurrence.
The Conference Committee headed by Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney G. Sherman was intended to harmonize the two versions of the Bills from both the House of Representatives and the Senate to make it more robust and to meet international standards under the laws of the country in the control of illicit drugs and substances across the country.
The Senate’s version of the law provides that the cultivation, manufacture, importation, export, trafficking and sale of controlled drugs and substances is a first degree felony, is a grave offense, and therefore is non-bailable, adding, that properties, real and personal, used in the process of committing any of these offenses shall escheat to the Republic.
In the Committee’s report, proceeds from the sale of properties escheated to the Republic shall be appropriated as follows: twenty-five percent (25%) for the drug enforcement agencies, twenty-five percent (25%) for drug prevention and rehabilitation programs, and fifty percent (50%) to the general revenue of the Republic, stressing that these appropriations to the drug enforcement agencies and to drug prevention and rehabilitation programs shall be in addition to any appropriation which shall be made annually by the Legislature in the National Budget.
The Committee also indicated that the use or consumption of controlled drugs and substance is a second degree felony and is consistent with the constitutional right to bail for the commission of the crime.
Meanwhile, Speaking to reporters after the Liberian Senate concurrence, the proponent of the Bill, Grand Bassa County District #5 Representative Thomas A. Goshua says he is a happy man now because the passage of the Bill will now reduce the number of disadvantage youths in the street because it provides penalties for drugs possession or use, supply, trafficking, production, an alternative to incarceration, harm reduction, public health and human rights, confiscation of properties among others.
The Grand Bassa County Lawmaker explained that the reason for introducing the Bill is because it has been observed that drugs and substances abuse have contributed negatively to the growth of the younger generation, adding, that the proliferation of illicit drugs in Liberia has led several youths uncontrolled and are being referred to as “Zogos”.
He at the same time stated that, with the growing wave of alcohol abuse particularly among underage citizens, the need for the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency to aid the process of regulating the production and distribution of alcohol cannot be overemphasized stressing that the central focus has mainly been on drug use and abuse with no emphasis on other activities that precipitate the many addictions that are commonly placed in Liberia today.
Rep. Goshua indicated that although there are penalties prescribed by respective legislation initiated before his ascendency to the 54th National Legislature, they appear to leave a lot of room for judicial discretion based on the circumstances of each individual case in as much as the Liberian lawmaker to dictate minimum or maximum sentence for offense ranging from one year to ten years in prison for possession stating that the amendment process was also intended to address the gaps, and judicial discretions left within the amended version of 2014.
The Grand Bassa County Lawmaker further thanked his colleagues, the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency, all civil society actors, national and international partners, and the West Africa Drug Policy Network for their overwhelming support in ensuring that drugs and substance abuse comes to an end in Liberia, stating that this will go a long way to protect Liberian Children and will also save the future of Liberia.
He noted that since 2019 the new drug Bill has been lingering in committees rooms of the Legislature, but at last it is finally passed, adding that with all hands on deck to save the future of this nation by making Liberia a drug-free country, he is optimistic that President George M. Weah will in the soonest possible time sign into handbill the new drug law.