In support of the government’s intention to decriminalise drug use — Lee Lam Thye and 23 other groups

JUNE 27 — We, the undersigned, refer to the recent joint announcement by the Honourable Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad on the Malaysian Government’s intention to decriminalise drug use.

As leaders in public, private, civil society and community organisations in Malaysia, we strongly endorse the announcement that Malaysia will take a public health approach to the problem of drug use and addiction in Malaysia. Drug addiction must be recognised as a complex chronic relapsing medical condition which requires medical as well as psychosocial support in a non-punitive manner, such as referrals to voluntary treatment and rehabilitation, social re-integration, and education. Local evidence has shown that treatment of drug use reduces relapse, and allows drug users to return to gainful employment, reconnect back to families and contribute meaningfully to societies.

The press conference, by the Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Health, which announced their support for decriminalisation of illicit drug use, and for the review and repeal of drug laws that criminalise drug use has come at a critical time — as the present approach of punitive actions on people who use drugs has led to several harmful consequences including severe overcrowding in prisons leading to the problem of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases in these settings. Criminalisation makes many drug users afraid to ask for medical help for fear of punishment and a criminal record that would negatively impact their ability to get jobs, support themselves, their families, and participate in society. Furthermore, criminalisation creates a cycle of imprisonment and poverty that leads to increased risk of infections, family breakdowns, and a loss of human capital to Malaysian society.

This historic announcement falls right before the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and the Support Don’t Punish Campaign, a global campaign to raise awareness of the harms caused by the criminalisation of people who use drugs, and is in line with Malaysia’s continued commitment towards supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to “ensure that no one is left behind”.

As Malaysian organisations in public, private and nonprofit sectors, it is our duty to care.

We Support. Don’t Punish.

*Academy of Medicine Malaysia, Malaysian Medical Association, College of Physicians Malaysia, College of Pathologists Malaysia, College of Public Health Malaysia, University of Malaya Faculty of Medicine, College of Radiology, Addiction Medicine Association of Malaysia (AMAM), PERtubuhan Doktor-doktor Islam Malaysia (PERDIM), Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC), University of Malaya Center of Addiction Sciences (UMCAS), UM Center of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA), Malaysian Alliance for Drug Policy Reform (Reformasi Dadah), The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA), Insaf Munri Association of Malaysia (IMAM), Wholistic Initiative for Substance Abuse Education and Research (WISER), Jabatan Psikiatri, University Science Malaysia Kampus Kesihatan Kubang Kerian, Family Medicine Specialists’ Association (FMSA), Alumni Sekolah Menengah Sultan Ismael, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, MAIM Kelantan, Malaysian Care, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), Women’s Aid Organisation

**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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