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Cabinet proposes new strategies to address new generation of illegal drugs

Premier Lin Chuan today said the government is proposing new anti-drug strategies to combat a new generation of illegal drugs and drug trafficking methods.

Speaking after the weekly Cabinet meeting, the premier said these new strategies will adopt people-centered prevention and control approaches for building a comprehensive anti-drug network, and use quantitative targets for tracking drugs to their source and blocking external trafficking channels. Between 2017 and 2020, projected costs will be NT$10 billion (about US$329 million), hoping to reduce drug-related crime and reduce the number of new drug users, he said.

Illicit drugs extract a high social cost, and last year Taiwan investigated and apprehended about 60,000 persons in drug-related cases, 27,000 of whom were sentenced to prison, accounting for 48 percent of all inmates at correctional institutions. So clearly, illegal drugs are a serious social concern, the premier said. And because new types of drugs have proliferated and new trafficking schemes have evolved over the past few years, the public is justifiably concerned about more crimes going unreported. So after several months of discussions, the government has consolidated the anti-drug efforts of various government agencies and proposed a new set of strategies to address burgeoning drug trends, hoping that more comprehensive methods will lead to more effective anti-drug efforts to reduce the negative effects of drugs on society.

The government’s new-generation drug fighting strategies will integrate information from existing prosecutorial, police, investigation, military, coast guard and customs sources to set up a database and carry out big data analysis to map out drug networks, and track illegal drug use, trafficking and sources. Other strategies include efforts to help users become drug-free by providing care and guidance through legal and medical means, social welfare, or reconstituted families, and setting up a medical system for addiction treatment, and a continuous employment tracking and guidance mechanism to help former drug users return to a more normal lifestyle, the premier said.

The basic principles guiding anti-drug law enforcement will be to track drug sources to cut off supply, and prevent drugs from entering Taiwan in the first place. This will both reduce the number of illegal drug users and reduce supply. The central government is currently seeking to integrate efforts by government agencies and local governments to prevent drug abuse, treat and rehabilitate users, step up anti-drug monitoring capabilities and increase anti-drug cooperation, the premier said.

To prevent drug abuse, the government will first intensify anti-drug campaigns at schools to crack down on unreported campus crimes. Schools will work with local police to set up patrol networks to monitor drug hotspots and provide individual follow-up guidance for every student involved in substance abuse.

Drug treatment and rehabilitation opportunities will be provided for addicts and dealers who wish to break free from the grip of narcotics. The goal is to provide such opportunities to 20 percent of drug users within four years. The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) will also set up model comprehensive rehabilitation centers in northern, central, southern and eastern Taiwan, linking medical treatment resources in each of the four regions. These centers will focus on treating and preparing drug addicts for a successful return to society.

To strengthen drug monitoring efforts, Premier Lin instructed the Ministry of Finance and the Coast Guard Administration to formulate a plan for improving border inspection equipment and capabilities. The MOHW also plans to procure, within two years, rapid detection instruments that can identify raw materials for drug production, and set up more public and private certified drug testing institutions.

To enhance collaboration in drug enforcement efforts, authorities will employ big data analysis and other high-tech tools, set up a joint regional mechanism and rural narcotics reporting system, track drugs to the source and launch a major offensive against drug lords. A military drug reporting network and cooperative investigation mechanism will also be set up to address long-suspected issues of illegal drugs in the military.

The government will also review the current system and make amendments to the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act, including introducing an expanded confiscation system, and increasing punishments for those who sell drugs to minors or pregnant women, and those who produce, transport or sell hybrid drugs. For persons convicted of possessing Category 1 and Category 2 drugs, the scope of penalties may be widened to cover possession of “narcotics” rather than “pure narcotics.” For persons convicted of possessing Category 3 and Category 4 drugs, the threshold for imprisonment will be lowered from 20 grams to 5 grams.

The government has no budget limit for the anti-drug campaign, so as long as every dollar is spent wisely, budget concerns will not be an obstacle in the future, the premier said. From today until the end of 2018, the government will crack down on drug criminals by expanding budgets, facilities and manpower, and setting up new databases. By 2019, the drug situation and number of users will hopefully be under control, and by 2020, the government hopes to see a reduction in the population of new drug users.