Over $20 billion in ganja destroyed last year

-more than 300 convicted for drug offences

NANA Head Michael Atherley (at right) and Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence (second, from right) at the launch of the report yesterday at the Georgetown Club. (NANA photo)

Over $20 billion worth of marijuana was destroyed last year, according to the National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA), which has reported that over 300 persons were convicted for various drug crimes during the period.

NANA, which comes under the Ministry of Public Security, yesterday launched its Annual Report of the Guyana Drug Information Network (GUYDIN) for 2017. GUYDIN is an inter-agency body comprising law enforcement agencies working in drug supply reduction and professionals working on drug prevention and treatment who meet regularly to share data on drug supply and demand reduction interventions.

It has been producing annual reports on the drug situation in Guyana since 2011. Since NANA was established in 2017, it has become an integral part of the agency.

A press statement from NANA said the report seeks to provide comprehensive data on drug supply and demand interventions for evidence-based policy and programme development. “The 2017 report highlights that law enforcement agencies have seized a total of 55,139 KG of narcotics which includes substances such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy and have eradicated over 117,000 KG of marijuana plants. Overall, they are responsible for removing drugs valued at over GYD $20 billion from the streets, while convicting over 300 persons for various drug crimes,” the statement said.

For 2017, the executive summary of the GUYDIN report said, law enforcement agencies made 124 drug seizures. Of these, the Narcotics Branch of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) made 72 percent and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) made 28 percent.

The report said that marijuana plants were eradicated from 34 acres of land, spanning 20 fields over 15 operations. Some 204,400 plants were eradicated, the report said, and a “total of 117,531.67 KG of marijuana taken off the market, the substance had an estimated street value of over $20 billion Guyana dollars.”

Meanwhile, according to the report, over 100 people received specialised treatment for problematic drug use through the Phoenix Recovery Project and the Salvation Army’s Men Social Service. An analysis of treatment data for 2017 from Phoenix and the Salvation Army found that 39 percent of those being treated abused cocaine and its derivatives while marijuana accounted for 33 percent of the most abused illicit substance. The majority in treatment were males while under 10 percent were females. Figures also showed that 84 percent of those in treatment used more than one drug while the remaining 16 percent used only one. Data from 2015-2017 showed a gradual increase in the number of people seeking treatment, from 87 persons in 2015 to 106 in 2017.

Drug demand reduction, the report said, “is a strategic way of addressing the drug problem by focusing on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.” It noted that a 2013 study on local drug use among students showed that more than 40 percent of teenagers nationwide were not aware of the risks associated with any form of substance use.

Meanwhile, in 2017, the GPF charged 262 people with drug possession. Of the 262, the report said, 244 or 93 percent were charged for possession of marijuana and 18 or seven percent for possession of cocaine. Of the 244 charged for possession of marijuana, seven or three percent were females above 18 years. Of the 237 or 97 percent males charged for possession of marijuana, 38 or 16 percent were below 18 years.

Further, for the year under review, 196 people were convicted for the possession of narcotics of which 177 or 90 percent were convicted for possession of marijuana, and 19 or 10 percent were convicted for possession of cocaine. Of those convicted, 39 or 18 percent were juveniles. Of the 177 convicted for possession of marijuana, 11 or six percent were females above 18 years, and of the 166 males convicted, 38 or 23 percent were below 18 years.

During this period, 423 people were charged for the trafficking of narcotics. The GPF charged 394 and CANU charged 29. Of the 432, a total of 370 were charged for trafficking marijuana, 52 for trafficking cocaine and one for trafficking heroin. Forty-nine women were charged for trafficking in narcotics with 37 being charged for trafficking marijuana, 11 for cocaine and one for heroin. Of those charged, 110 were convicted for trafficking narcotics. Of those convicted, 89 were for trafficking marijuana and 21 for trafficking cocaine. Six women were convicted for trafficking marijuana and nine women for trafficking cocaine.

During 2017, the executive summary said, about 7,250 pieces of drug evidence were submitted to the Guyana Forensics Science Laboratory to analyse for presence and identification of the types of narcotics from all the GPF divisions. The pieces of evidence were a part of 463 drug case investigations. Of the evidence submitted for analysis, there was a 99.2 percent positivity rate for marijuana, 96.7 percent positivity rate for cocaine, 100 percent positivity for ecstasy, 100 percent positivity for methamphetamine and 100 percent for heroin.

The GUYDIN report also considered the 2017 study on inmates in Guyana done by the Center for Latin American Studies on Crime and Violence of the Inter-American Deve-lopment Bank. That study found that six out of every ten inmates had consumed marijuana at least once in their life, while seven percent had consumed cocaine or crack and the other six percent had consumed pills or ecstasy.

In analysing the gender distribution of the prison population by the type of offence committed, the report said, while women made up less than five percent of the prison population, 54 percent of them were there for drug offences compared to men who made up over 96 percent of the prison population, and only 16.9 percent were incarcerated for drug-related offences.

The GUYDIN report also quoted the study on Indigenous Women and Children in Guyana conducted by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund which found that the use of alcohol and drugs has increased overtime in Amerindian villages contributing to social issues such as violence particularly in Baramita, Region One (Barima/Waini), Orealla, Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) and Waramadong, Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni).

Meantime, the report noted that for 2017, a total of 3,461 drivers were charged for driving under the influence of alcohol, a fact which the report said, illustrated “that more sensitization must be done to make persons aware of the dangers of drinking and driving.”

This year’s report received technical assistance from the Cooperation Program between Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union on Drug Policies (COPOLAD).

COPOLAD works in collaboration with the Organisation of American States, Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction to standardise annual drug information network (DIN) reports while CICAD works to standardise data collection mechanisms for DINs across Latin America and the Caribbean.

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