In accordance with the three United Nations Conventions, namely, the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs of 1961 (as amended by the 1972 protocol), the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988, to which the Maldives is a signatory, much work has been done to address the problem of drug abuse in the country.
The first ever incidence on drug use was reported back in 1977 when a person was arrested with 350 grams of Hashish. To address the problem of drug addiction, a legal framework was drawn up. As a result, country’s first drug act (Drug Law 17/77) came into force in 1977. The first amendment to the drug law (17/77) was made in 1995, eighteen years later in an attempt to incorporate the requirements under the above Conventions into domestic law. Tables consisting of illegal and controlled drugs were incorporated as amendments. Drug use was considered a less harsh offence while traffickers were prescribed a life sentence without bail. In 1996, drug users were also given the opportunity to undergo treatment programs and successful completion of the programme effectively suspended their pending sentence.
About 37 years later, the country now has in effect a modern piece of legislation to tackle the issue of drugs. National Drug Agency (NDA) – a government agency responsible in the implementation of policies relating to the legislation was established under the Drug Law (17/2011). While its work is overseen by the National Drug Control Council established under the new Drug Law, NDA is managed by a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who reports to a ten member Advisory Board appointed by the President. The Board is accountable to the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister is accountable to the Parliament on all matters relating to the Agency.
One of the special features of the new legislation is that it establishes a specialist court by the name of Drug Court – a court having the jurisdiction in all matters related to drugs accorded to it under the Act and forms part of the general justice system. Drug Court was established to endeavor to reduce the level of drug dependency; to endeavor to reduce the level of criminal activity associated with the drug dependency to find ways to reintegrate eligible persons into the community; and to grant legal and judicial recognition to the treatment mechanism, whilst interlinking the treatment mechanism with the general justice system.