Minor drug offenders should be rehabilitated, says activist

KUALA LUMPUR: A new and compassionate approach towards prevention, treatment and rehabilitation is needed for those who committed minor drug offences, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

The Alliance for a Safe Community chairman said instead of charging them with minor drug offences, it was better to send them for treatment and rehabilitation.

"Those who committed minor drug offences might have needed small doses for medication as some believe they needed such medication for their health needs.

"We should not treat them as criminals as they should be given the opportunity to be rehabilitated," he said when contacted on Tuesday (May 16).

He was commenting on Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail's statement that a new law on drug and substance abuse is expected to be tabled in Parliament later this year.

Read more: New law on drug abuse in the works

Saifuddin had said the Drugs and Substance Abuse (Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation) Bill is to replace the Drug Addict (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act.

Lee said the new law's focus should be on substance abuse in small doses, whereby the idea is to decriminalise and add an option to send minor offenders for rehabilitation.

"In my view, if minor drug offenders are sent to jail, it will contribute to overcrowding in prisons.

"The best option is to send them to rehabilitation institutions," he said.

Lee said ensuring a proper rehabilitation strategy, including providing training for various job skills, was also important.

"By providing such training, the minor drug offender could rejoin society and obtain job opportunities when leaving the rehabilitation centre," he added.

The drug issue is still one of the major social issues in the country, Lee said.

"We need to intensify our efforts on prevention, especially in creating more awareness of the drug menace in schools. We also need to relook at all laws in regards to drug abuse," he added.

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