Trying to curb hidden drug abuse

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 5:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 5:21am

It has been over a month since the Action Committee Against Narcotics (Acan) launched the public consultation exercise on the RESCUE Drug Testing Scheme (RDT). I want to address a few frequently asked questions.

First, some people believe drug abuse is not much different from alcoholism or addictive gambling, so there is no reason to legislate to control beyond drug driving. However, consumption of narcotics is a criminal offence. Some people engage in illicit acts like drug trafficking to pay for their drugs. Apart from drug driving accidents, there have been cases in recent years in which drug abusers lost control of themselves and inflicted harm on others.

Drug abuse is an epidemic according to the World Health Organisation. It incurs costs to medical and welfare systems and lowers productivity.

Second, some people think that drug testing violates fundamental human rights because citizens have to prove themselves not guilty. I must point out that the Court of Final Appeal in a case cited the European Court of Final Appeal Court of Human Rights. It noted that the privilege against self-incrimination does not apply to the use of compulsory powers to obtain breath, blood, urine and other samples which have an existence independent of the will of the suspect. Existing traffic legislation also allows the police to require a motorist to undergo drug testing with reasonable suspicion.

Third, some people are worried that the scheme will give police excessive power. Acan understands that our community has a reasonable expectation for protection of civil liberties and human rights and it has therefore proposed a very high threshold to trigger RDT power. To some extent, some obvious cases would not be covered as a result. In addition, drawing reference to the drug driving legislation, Acan also recommends a preliminary test to be first conducted. Moreover, we recommend a series of other safeguard measures.

Fourth, some people suggest that the government should, before considering drug testing, first pursue publicity and education, voluntary rehabilitation and tackling the drug problem at source. But these have already been part and parcel of the government's anti-drug strategy which have been enhanced in the past few years.

While the youth drug abuse situation has improved, the hidden drug abuse problem continues to worsen. We are racing against time to identify those with drug problems and help them. We welcome all views.

Professor Daniel Shek, chairman, Action Committee Against Narcotics