Figures compiled by the Punakha police show an increasing trend of marijuana abuse in the dzongkhag over the past two months possibly due to the short supply of contraband across the border.
From March till date Punakha police have registered 15 cases of marijuana abuse and illicit trafficking of NDPs with 38 people arrested. Nine of them were involved in abusing marijuana but during the time of arrest they did not possess marijuana while 29 of them were abusers, tested positive and found in possession of substances either in large or small quantity.
Of these registered cases, four cases were forwarded to Office of Attorney General (OAG).
Police have seized 126 grams of marijuana leaves and 125.4 grams of hashish while 103 capsules of Spasmoproxvon (SP) and four ml of thinner.
Last year between March till second week of May, 172.21 grams of hashish was seized along with 162 Spasmoproxvon Capsule and 60 pieces of Nitrosun 10 tablets. Seven cases were registered with 17 arrests. Most of them were charged for Illicit Trafficking of controlled substances.
Shengana, Kabisa and Goenshari gewogs in Punakha are the hotspots for marijuana harvesting for abusers and smugglers since these gewogs have abundant growth of marijuana.
In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the neighboring border in lockdown most of the controlled substance abusers are shifting to marijuana from pharmaceutical drugs.
In an interview with Business Bhutan Lieutenant Colonel Chador Namgay of Punakha police station said that with the lockdown across the border and with no access to pharmaceutical substances, cases of marijuana abuse is likely to increase in coming months.
“We request the public to cooperate with police and inform the police if they happen to see people involved in such activities within their vicinity. I have also briefed my men to be more vigilant,” he said.
Role of police and challenges
Police in Punakha has been advocating the people at the gewog level especially during the gewog Tshogdu (GT) and Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) on marijuana related issues.
Besides police has also been requesting the villagers that if they encounter or see unfamiliar faces loitering around their villages they should inquire and immediately inform the police.
Despite measures taken by the police to curb marijuana abuse, they still face challenges such as times when villagers are least bothered about strangers harvesting the plant.
Another challenge is fear among the villagers as most of the suspects threaten them if they complain to police about their presence and activities.
Shortage of human resources is another challenge for the Punakha police especially during the COVID-19 situation, with most of the police personnel deployed for COVID.
Retaliation from the suspects is also one major challenge. Most of the people involved in marijuana abuse and trafficking were farmers, school dropouts and students.
In some cases farmers are themselves involved in the marijuana business since it is a lucrative trade especially with the border lockdown.
Chencho Dema from Thimphu