PETALIN JAYA: The Government is moving towards a removal of penalties against drug possession for personal use, but this is not to be mistaken for legalising these substances, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (pic).
"Malaysia is about to embark on a significant game-changer policy of decriminalisation of drug addicts and addiction.
"This is not to be mistaken for legalising drugs, and I again categorically emphasise that decriminalising does NOT mean that we are legalising drugs," he said in a statement on Thursday (June 28)
Dr Dzulkefly clarified that decriminalisation is the "removal of criminal penalties for possessing and using a small quantity of drugs for personal use, as opposed to those who are involved in trafficking of drugs".
He added that drug trafficking will continue to remain a crime.
Dr Dzilkefly said that decriminalisation would be a critical next step towards achieving a rational drug policy that puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration.
He said drug use and addiction is a complex chronic relapsing medical condition with many factors.
Among the factors for drug use and addiction, he cited, include genetic predisposition, surrounding environment such as poverty, family breakdown, school and peer pressure.
As such, he said it is hard to reverse the biological changes experienced by a person who has continuously used drugs.
"Certainly putting them (addicts) in prison is not going to change that. It is not just a matter of someone having weak will power," he said.
"An addict shall be treated as a patient (not as a criminal), whose addiction is a disease we would like to cure," he added.
He said that decades of evidence has shown that decriminalisation would reap both human and fiscal benefits while protecting families and communities.
He noted that more than 30 countries have adopt decriminalisation, with research showing that it has not led to increase in drug use and drug related crimes.
He added that research also showed that decriminalisation reduces the costs in the criminal justice system while improving social outcomes.
"This is an important journey that we are about to undertake and we must tread on it with care and tact," he cautioned.