Guyana has growing domestic drug use problem ‒ US report

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…marijuana, cocaine most prevalent; ecstasy also present

A United States (US) State Department report has declared that while Guyana has a comprehensive drug demand reduction strategy, the use of drugs like marijuana and even cocaine is a growing problem.

This information is contained in the recently released 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which has a section dedicated to Guyana’s profile.

Notwithstanding the trafficking, the report notes, actual consumption of these drugs is a growing problem. According to the report, marijuana is the most commonly used drug.

The document also noted reported seizures of synthetic drugs like Methylene-dioxyamphetamine (MDMA), most commonly known as “ecstasy”, and detailed Government’s response to the scourge.

“The Government of Guyana’s National Drug Abuse Control Unit trains public health officers, teachers, social workers, and civil society groups as part of the Government’s supply reduction strategy,” the report states.

“The Guyanese Government has a drug enforcement presence at its international airports, post offices, and to a lesser extent at seaport and land-border entry points. Control agencies reported several interdiction efforts and drug-related seizures and convictions during the first nine months of 2018”, the report detailed.

The report notes that during the first nine months of 2018, authorities seized 164.9 kilograms (kg) of cocaine and 889kg of cannabis. It also states that local authorities initiated 358 prosecutions and convicted 24 individuals for drug trafficking.

The report has expressed faith in Guyana’s demand reduction strategy, noting that it adequately addresses drug rehabilitation. It named the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Social Protection as the relevant Ministries responsible for addressing demand reduction.

”Non-governmental organisations also offer rehabilitation services, with the Government providing financial assistance.

“The Georgetown Public Hospital provides free rehabilitation services for drug users. The University of Guyana has a demand reduction curriculum in place through OAS/CICAD funding”, the report detailed.

“The Government of Guyana conducts anti-drug awareness sessions in secondary schools, and has plans to create drug treatment courts. As part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the United States supports Guyana through targeted training for law enforcement and maritime officers”, the report declared.

Ecstasy pills

Guyana’s laws currently provide for a mandatory three-year jail sentence for anyone found in possession of small amounts of marijuana and other illicit drugs. This has led to the incarceration of petty offenders and, persons have opined, has contributed to an overcrowding of the country’s prisons. There has, however, been a push to remove custodial sentencing for possession of small amounts of marijuana through legislation.

As at January 2017, there was a total of 2,043 inmates in Guyana’s five jails, although the largest one – the Camp Street prison – was subsequently gutted in a fire. At the time, the Georgetown prisons had 963 inmates, 521 of whom were on remand; Lusignan had 153, of whom 32 were on remand; Mazaruni had 360 and Timehri had 130 inmates including 28 remanded inmates.

All of the aforementioned prisoners were male, while New Amsterdam had a male prison population of 352 and a female population of 85. One hundred and fifty of those men and 31 women were on remand.

The Camp Street Prison reached the end of the line on July 9, 2017, when prisoners set that facility on fire, occasioning its complete destruction, except for a newly built brick building which is still standing intact.

Following that jailbreak, over 1000 prisoners were displaced. While some were moved to Mazaruni or granted early release or bail, others had remained at Lusignan under straightened circumstances.

It was then that another contingent escaped. Since these two jailbreaks, all but one prison escapee – Paul Goriah – have either been recaptured or killed.

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