The Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drugs Network says Zimbabwe should review its penalties on drug possession and abuse in the country.
Executive director, Wilson Box, who was in Washington for a week-long conference to look into illicit drugs, told VOA Studio 7 drug abuse has become a major problem with the youth in Zimbabwe leading to more mental health cases being recorded in the country.
"A research carried out by the Health and Empowerment Trust says 55% of the youth in the country have been to mental health institutions as a result of drug misuse, so as an organisation we are calling on the government to look at these issue so that we have men and women who are able to move on without drug problems," said Box.
Box said he was part of international representatives of nonprofit organisations that promote the rights of drug users at the Drug Policy Alliance Reform conference held every two years in the United States.
He said, "The objective of the conference was to look at policies that are in place worldwide with a view of reforming them as the war on drugs has ravaged many families.
"We have seen an increase in the number of youths using illicit drugs in the country as they are readily available on the streets and most of the users end up with mental health issues. We are worried about the number of youths and others that are criminalized and incarcerated for drug possession as the laws governing this need to be reviewed to make sure that those affected are rehabilitated instead of being put in jail.”
He added that the statute being used in the country right now is the Criminal Codification Reform Act Chapter 7 that criminalizes dangerous drugs.
Box noted that his organisation's wish is to advise the government and other policymakers to put in place a drug policy that is evidence based, respects human rights and is also humane.
Box said in the case of drug peddlers that provide the harmful substances to the youth and other members of society, the penalty should remain stiff to discourage them from openly availing these to the public who then become addicted and in most cases succumb to mental health issues.
"We want to discourage the incarceration of the youth for drug possession as some of them who are put in jail sometimes get abused and end up with the HIV/AIDS virus or other sexually transmitted diseases, a situation we can avoid if government laws are changed and instead received rehabilitation,” said Box, adding that in the case of drug peddlers they should get the maximum sentence and be jailed as they are the root cause of the problem in the first place.
Box further said his organisation will engage with the Zimbabwe's policymakers, starting with the parliamentary committee on drugs the health minister, the advisor to the president on health issues and other stake holders in the judiciary and also the police services.
The most common drugs being used in the country, said Box, are cannabis, bronco, cough mixer with codeine, histalix another cough mixer know locally as musombodia and nyaope or wunga a mixer of anti-retroviral medications.
These are a small fraction with other hard drugs like cocaine also littering being readily being available on the street but at higher costs.