Suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP from Patiala Dr Dharamvira Gandhi wants the Centre to legalise the use of drugs like opium and marijuana to discourage the use of stronger, synthetic narcotics and end drug mafia in Punjab which is currently in the grip of what is perceived to be a widespread drug abuse problem.
“Punjab is in severe crisis. Many young people have died,” Gandhi told Hindustan Times.
Gandhi believes the problem started with the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 which prescribes harsh punishment for possession and distribution of all categories of drugs.
“Soft drugs such as opium and bhuki (dried cannabis) had been commonly used in Punjab for centuries as recreational drugs. After the supply of these substances was restricted under the law, people moved to synthetic drugs like heroin or meth which are far more harmful but available through the drug mafia. The NDPS act has failed and the only solution to the problem is for the government to start regulated supply of soft drugs to addicts,” he explained.
The rebel AAP MP is a well known cardiologist in Patiala and contested the elections for the first time in 2014 and won. The AAP last year suspended him for alleged anti-party activities and the drug problem in Punjab is one of its main election planks for the 2017 assembly elections. The Congress too has blamed the ruling Akali-led government for the drug menace.
Gandhi has given a notice to the Lok Sabha speaker for moving a private member’s bill in the winter session to amend the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotopic Substances Act and treat addicts “as patients not criminals.”
The changes in the law he has sought include making a clear distinction between “soft drugs” and hard drugs, establishing a supply chain of soft drugs regulated by government agencies to wean away addicts from cosmetic or damaging drugs and allowing citizens to grow specified quantities of soft or recreational drugs.
“The object of the Bill is to demolish the nexus of politicians, police and peddlers, (collectively known as Drug Mafias),” the draft proposed by Gandhi reads. “A lot of our police, jail and judicial resources are consumed in catching and punishing petty users,” Gandhi explained.