As part of the outreach service program in Kabisa community conducted by Khasadrapchu Youth Center in Thimphu yesterday, the officials from Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) interacted with over 50 youth and sensitized them on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and the associated drug laws in Bhutan. The rising trend of drug abuse and smuggling cases in the country over the years seriously call for aggressive public awareness campaigns so that young people can stay safe from drugs. It has been found that many youth are committing drug-related crimes simply because they don’t have adequate knowledge of the legal provisions in the Narcotic Drug, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2015. So most of the time, they are found unaware of what they are doing. It has been reported that a young graduate has been recently caught in Eastern Bhutan with 90 pieces of N10 in a parcel he was carrying for his friend from another person. If he had known that carrying N10 which is a Schedule III drug more than two times the permissible quantity of ten pieces would send him to jail for 5-9 years (3rd degree felony), perhaps he would have double-checked the parcel he had received for his friend. So for the benefit of all the youth of Bhutan, I would like to share some of the most important highlights from the sensitization program held in Kabisa.
According to the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2015, the drugs and psychotropic substances are categorized into six major schedules. Those drugs which do not have any medicinal value fall under Schedule I and II. The hard drugs without any medicinal value such as the brown sugar, cocaine and heroin fall under Schedule I whereas drugs like cannabis or Marijuana fall under Schedule II. The pharmaceutical drugs such as spasmoproxyvon and relipin fall under Schedule III and more commonly prescribed drugs like Diazepam fall under Schedule IV. The Schedule V drugs include precursor chemicals which are mostly used in the illegal manufacture of drugs. Schedule VI includes inhalants and solvents which are often abused like paint-thinner, dendrite, petrol and correction fluid.
Now let us talk about the legal provisions for abusing or illegally possessing/trafficking drugs under each schedule. If you are found with equal to or less than 2 grams of any of Schedule I drugs like brown sugar or heroin, you are liable for 3rd degree felony, which means you will have to serve a prison term of 5-9 years. If you are found with more than 2 grams but less than 4 grams, you are liable for 2nd degree felony with the prison term ranging from 9-15 years. If you are found with more than 4 grams, then you can be booked under the 1st degree felony, with the jail sentence ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. The quantity of Schedule II drugs other than cannabis that can get you the minimum jail sentence (3rd degree felony) is 5 grams. If you are found with more than 5 but less than 10 grams can make you liable for 2nd degree felony (9-15 years of jail sentence). Then more than 10 grams can book you under the 1st degree felony and send you to jail for 15 years or life. For the specific details of which drugs fall under these schedules, you can refer the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance ACT of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2015.
Since cannabis is freely available in Bhutan, the penalties for its abuse are slightly different from the Schedule I and II drugs. The permissible quantities of different types of cannabis products are:
1. Cannabis with dried leaves/twigs: 50 grams.
2. Hashish: 7 grams.
3. Hashish oil: 3 ml.
If you are caught with equal to or less than the above-mentioned permissible quantities, you will be convicted for illegal possession of the drug and will be liable for misdemeanor (jail sentence: 1-3 years). If you are caught with more than the permissible quantities but equal to or less than double the quantities, you will be convicted for illicit trafficking and will be liable for 4th degree felony (jail sentence: 3-5 years). Then if you are caught with more than double the permissible quantities, you are liable for 3rd degree felony (jail sentence: 5-9 years). However, if your urine test confirms the presence of the drug in your blood but you have not possessed it at the time of the arrest, you are entitled for treatment, counselling and rehabilitation services.
The permissible quantities for Schedule III drugs is 10 pieces and the Schedule IV drugs is 15 pieces. If you are found with equal to or less than these permissible quantities, you will be convicted for illegal possession of the drugs and will be liable for misdemeanor (jail sentence: 1-3 years). If you are found with more than the permissible quantities but less than or equal to double the given quantities, you will be charged for the 4th degree felony (jail sentence: 3-5 years). Then if you are found with more than two times the permissible quantities, you will be charged for 3rd degree felony (jail sentence: 5-9 years). Once again, for specific details of which drugs fall under Schedule III and IV, please refer to the Act.
The Schedule VI substances that include the inhalants and solvents like correction fluid, dendrite, nail-polish remover and paint-thinner also have legal implications. Since people are found to abuse them, the sale and distribution of such substances can convict you of an offence of misdemeanor or higher felony. Any business entity or an individual is not allowed to sell or distribute those substances to a minor. Even a person who is found sharing or distributing such substances to his or her friends have to face legal consequences if the person who has received the substance has been found to misuse it.
Therefore, it would be very important for every youth to keep those key legal provisions in mind so that they can recognize the potential dangers of abusing or trafficking drugs, and the legal consequences they have to face. The narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are harmful to our health and do not do any good to us. It is a family disease that destroys the relationship among the family-members and relatives. Just one drug user in the family can affect the entire circle emotionally and physically. So please stay away from drugs and try to be a responsible person in your family, school and the society.
Note: Thanks to Mr. Nima Dradu, the Chief Program Officer and Ms. Tshering Om, the Legal Officer of BNCA for the wonderful presentations.