FILE - Council of Representatives Member John Talaat
CAIRO - 20 October 2018: Parliamentarian John Talaat has drafted a law substituting the jail penalty for drug use by treatment. Talaat will attempt to gather the signatures of the Council of Representatives members in the general assembly taking place on Oct. 21.
If enough signatures are gathered, the draft law will be referred by the speaker to the concerned committee and later voted upon in a general assembly.
Currently, Article 39 of the Egyptian penal code states that if a person gets arrested while using drugs, s/he must be fined for LE1,000 - LE3,000 and sentenced for one year in prison maximum. The penalty is doubled, if the drug is cocaine or heroin. Instead, the proposed law suggests a treatment for three to six months.
Talaat explained that the aim of his suggestion is protecting youth - composing the largest segment of those who consume drugs - by inhibiting them from dealing with criminals in prison and eventually turning into outlaws themselves. He added that serving a sentence in jail would ruin the future of many.
Talaat argues that if the law is promulgated, the state would reduce the budget allocated for prisoners costs and that the millions of pounds that the Ministry of Social Solidarity already spends on anti-drug awareness campaigns would be better used.
The idea stirred debate as opponents speculate it would increase the number of addicts and not fulfill the purpose for which it was articulated.
The latest report prepared by the Ministry of Social Solidarity last year indicates that the rate of drug use is 10 percent - double the global rate - while that of addiction is 2.5 percent.
The minimum age of drug use became 11 years old. Tramadol is the top drug for addicts with 51 percent, while hash is the most common among drug users. Drug use and addiction is high among drivers and workers in the craft sector with 24 and 19 percent respectively.