Egypt MP pushes for cannabis decriminalisation, faces backlash

Egypt MP pushes for cannabis decriminalisation, faces backlash
Cairo's deputy governor will propose a law to give drug users addiction treatment rather than sending them to prison, receiving a mixed response from fellow lawmakers.
2 min read
16 October, 2018
Hashish and tramadol use are widespread in Egypt [Getty]

An Egyptian MP has proposed a draft law that would see users of drugs such as cannabis and tramadol receive therapeutic treatment rather than face prison sentences, a surprisingly liberal push in the socially conservative and authoritarian country.

Deputy governor of Cairo John Talaat announced the proposal this week, receiving mixed reaction from fellow lawmakers, officials and experts.

Salah Fawzi, a lawyer and constitutional specialist said the proposition raised some interesting issues that should be looked into further, adding that such a change in legislation around drugs would not violate any part of the Egyptian constitution.

Read more: Lebanon told to legalise hashish to solve economic crisis

However the proposal has come up against harsh opposition from other legislators, including former assistant interior minister, Magdy al-Bassiouni, who said that such a reform would increase the number of drug users, as punishment ensured moral standards.

Talaat said that he is finalising the draft law, which will be put to parliament for debate on 21 October.

Talaat said in a statement that the proposed law would consist of the abolishment of punishment for drug users, instead referring them for several months of addiction therapy.

He added that the current law dictates that drug users face a minimum of one year in jail, on top of a fine of at least 1,000 Egyptian pounds (around 56 USD). Talaat argued that imprisoning people costs the state millions, and redirecting these funds to treatment would yield far better results for society.

He said that his proposal was about protecting young people and preserving their chances of a future, especially those most vulnerable to crime. Giving them treatment and re-integrating them into society is far better for the country than excluding them by sending them to jail, where their hopes of any future would be dashed.

Cannabis and tramadol use is widespread in Egypt, tramadol being an addictive opiate painkiller.

More than 10 per cent of Egypt's population have used drugs, according to the Egyptian Fund for Drug Control.

According to the BBC, Egyptian drug helplines get up to 500 calls a day from people trying to kick the habit. Treatment, and almost a third of addicts are hooked on painkillers, the most common being tramadol.

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