Pharmacist wants Precursor Chemicals Act updated
Immediate Past Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society, Kevar Bennett says while the Government has indicated that there will be an update of the laws to cauterise the use of Molly, there needs to be swift action in updating the Precursor Chemicals Act.

Pointing to Molly, a pharmacist is recommending a review of the Precursor Chemicals Act to include more dangerous drugs that threaten the development of youngsters, schools and the society.

"The Jamaican law stipulates that possession or use of cocaine, heroin, marijuana [ganja] and ecstasy are illegal and subject to criminal and civil penalties. The illicit possession of precursor chemicals is also prohibited by law, and under the Precursor Chemicals Act of 1999, violations are punishable by criminal and civil penalties up to $35,000 and/or three years imprisonment. Jamaica is a signatory to the 1988 United Nations (UN) Drug Convention," Immediate Past Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica Kevar Bennett told the Jamaica Observer.

The Act provides for the monitoring and the control of precursor chemicals and other chemical substances used or capable of being used in any type of illicit transaction involving narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances or other substances having a similar effect.

The control agents include a central authority; National Intelligence Bureau in the Ministry of National Security, a competent authority; pharmaceutical services division of the Ministry of Health, Jamaica Customs Department Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and inspectors.

"According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), marijuana is used somewhere in the region of nine per cent of the population, making it the most abused illicit drug among Jamaicans, while cocaine abuse has reached a plateau of less than 0.1 per cent of the population," Bennett continued.

A 2014 report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) named Jamaica as the largest illicit producer and exporter of cannabis herb in Central America and the Caribbean.

The report showed that the island accounted for approximately one third of cannabis herb produced in the Caribbean and said that increased production of the drug has been noted in other countries, in particular Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The report added that Jamaica had become a hub for the trafficking of cocaine, and that the problem is compounded by the fact that Jamaican criminal groups are using the elaborate networks originally established to traffick cannabis and cocaine as well.

It noted that in Jamaica, drug trafficking takes place at airports through drug couriers, baggage and air freight and at seaports via containers, cargo vessels, underwater canisters attached to ship hulls, shipping vessels and speedboats.

Bennett said based on evidence suggesting that new drugs like Molly have entered Jamaica's domestic market in significant amounts, and its use is a growing trend amongst young people and young adults. He hoped it is nipped before it is too late.

"While the Government has indicated that there will be an update of the laws to cauterise its use, there needs to be swift action in this regard pointing to the Precursor Chemicals Act of 1999, that needs to be updated to include other dangerous drugs that are potentially harmful and illicitly used," Bennett told the Sunday Observer.

Last month, the Government hinted at legislative action against users and dealers of mood-altering drug Molly, which was found to be the most trendy substance among youngsters after a rapid situation assessment done this year by the National Council on Drug Abuse.

A news release from the Office of the Prime Minister on Wednesday, October 5 said there ought to be laws to capture the threats of "psychoactive substances", like Molly, and hold traffickers accountable.

Under the Precursor Chemicals Act, there are certain responsibilities that should be carried out by the pharmaceutical division including monitoring, controlling and investigating matters in relation to the production, manufacture, preparation, distribution, importation or exportation of precursor chemicals and of other specified chemical substances, and ensuring the application of a surveillance system on any movement of specified chemical substances into or out of Jamaica.

There is also an expectation that the division grants licences in respect to the production, manufacture, preparation, distribution, importation or exportation of precursor chemicals and of other specified chemical substances, and assist in promoting public awareness of the potential illicit use of specified chemical substances in the manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Bennett added: "Legislators need to zone in particular because the Act is already in place to serve as a law to curb the illicit transaction of any chemicals involving narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances or other substances having a similar effect."

Romardo Lyons

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