Thu, Aug 04, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Treatment is not decriminalization: lawmaker

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wellington Koo (顧立雄) yesterday rejected a media personality’s accusation that his call for addiction treatment to take place before “observation, rehabilitation or compulsory rehabilitation” — as stipulated by the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例) — was a call for the decriminalization of drugs.

At a public hearing early last month on amendments to the act, Koo called for pre-trial substance abuse treatment to precede “observation, rehabilitation or compulsory rehabilitation.”

Koo told the hearing that such treatment would help to prevent further dependence on illegal substances resulting from a drug user’s alienation from society due to incarceration.

“Judicial intervention alone will not solve problems of addiction or substance abuse. Putting drug users in jail serves no effective purpose other than to keep them out of sight,” Koo said.

“Even worse, jailing them would interrupt their education, work, social interactions and lives, making their reintroduction to society more difficult, and in the end would reinforce their psychological dependence to substances and cause an increase in drug-related crimes,” he added.

Internet celebrity-turned media personality Lucifer Chu (朱學恆), in an article published on Tuesday by online media outlet ETtoday said that Koo “not only spoke against making ketamine, a category 3 drug, a category 2 narcotic — which would allow police to secure search warrants — but he also advocated the decriminalization of the use of category 1 and 2 narcotics — including heroin, opium, cocaine, morphine and amphetamines — with no compulsory rehabilitation or jail time for users whose addiction has been cured.”

Chu described Koo as an “idealistic legislator-at-large who has never been exposed to second-hand ketamine smoke or been robbed or harmed by a drug-using criminal.”

Chu, whose Facebook page has more than 454,000 followers, cited messages from three people who have, in one way or another, been hurt by drug users.

One man said ketamine smoke from his neighbor has long filled his son’s bedroom.

A rank-and-file police officer said he was “nauseous” after seeing Koo’s proposals, adding that police efforts to curb drug abuse have constantly been restricted by government initiatives to curb the power of police.

One teenage girl told Chu she lost her father in a car crash, in which the driver who caused the incident was under the influence of a category 3 drug, adding that: “According to [the driver’s] mother, she could not have physically confined her son.”

Chu lambasted lawmakers at the hearing who called for “lighter punishments” for drug users.

“What kind of a war on drugs is taking place when [lawmakers] propose shitty motions urging for less punishments and for the decriminalization of all kinds of substance abuse?” Chu asked.

Koo yesterday said that pre-trial treatment “is not tantamount to the decriminalization of drugs.”

“Amendments to require pre-trial treatment would not affect penalties for drug users,” he said.

“To lower the number of drug users, the core problem that must be addressed is drug addiction and dependence, but what we are doing now is going straight to incarceration,” Koo said.

“Not only does jail do little to solve the problem of addiction, it might allow users greater access to drugs, due to collective incarceration,” he added.

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