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Taiwan’s new-generation strategy to combat drug abuse

I. Background

Although the government has spared no effort to combat drug abuse over the years, problems still persist, so on May 11 the Executive Yuan proposed a new-generation drug strategy to address contemporary drug issues.With a projected budget of NT$10 billion (US$331.56 million) over four years (2017-2020), the strategy will seek to prevent the raw materials and precursors for illegal drugs from entering Taiwan, reduce drug-related health problems for addicts and make them less likely to commit other types of crime, and strengthen investigation and seizure measures against the manufacture, sale and transport of drugs. These measures will all work to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and curb drug supply.

II. A new-generation strategy to combat drug abuse

In contrast to past efforts that focused only on the quantity of drugs seized, the current government’s new-generation strategy centers on people—apprehending the source of drugs—as well as quantitative targets to eliminate drugs from Taiwan society.Five major strategic measures include:

A. Drug monitoring: Deny entry and strengthen inspections
1. Procure additional high-speed detection instruments; increase import spot checks and follow-up inspections for high-risk active pharmaceutical ingredients; upgrade border control measures to prevent drugs from entering Taiwan.
2. Expand inspection capabilities to detect emerging drugs by establishing standard analytical profiles for them, and upgrading inspection capabilities at public and private test laboratories.
B. Drug prevention: Zero tolerance for drugs in schools
1. Have schools and district police precincts set up cooperative patrol networks covering drug “hot spots”; strengthen reporting requirements for educational units.
2. Make principals and schools take on more responsibility for drug prevention by incorporating such efforts into their performance evaluations.
3. Provide guidance, referrals and follow-up services for student drug users on an individual, case-by-case basis.
C. Drug sweeps: No place for drug dealers to hide
1. Employ a tech-oriented anti-drug strategy, integrating cross-ministerial resources to establish a national drug database and create drug network graphics for each locale to help track drug sources and cut off supply.
2. Mount offensives against community-based middlemen and retail drug dealers through scheduled as well as unscheduled sweeps, and establish comprehensive reporting networks.
3. Establish regional joint prevention planning and supervision mechanisms.
4. Set up reporting networks for drug issues in remote areas and step up investigation and seizure actions targeting drug smugglers.
5. Establish a reporting, investigation and seizure mechanism within the military.
D. Drug rehabilitation treatment: Provide comprehensive, empirical and continuous treatment services
1. Increase coverage for medical treatment of drug and narcotic addictions.
2. Build four integrated medical treatment demo centers for drug and narcotic addicts, one each in the north, central, south and eastern regions.
3. Build additional therapeutic communities and halfway houses.
4. Promote regional services for methadone replacement therapy and improve the accessibility of replacement therapy in remote areas.
5. Set up family-centered support services to encourage drug addicts to return to their families.
6. Provide one-stop employment services that link network resources to help patients prepare to find employment.
7. Transfer administrative oversight of local drug abuse prevention centers from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Health and Welfare to enhance the medical rehabilitation and counseling services of those centers.
8. Evaluate methods to transform drug rehabilitation centers under the Ministry of Justice’s Agency of Corrections, introducing a new rehabilitation model focused on services that provide medical treatment and help addicts return to society, with addict supervision as a secondary consideration.
E. Strategies for amending laws and regulations
1. Increase criminal sentences and fines for manufacturing, transporting and trafficking in illegal drugs.
2. Increase punishments by half for the sale of illegal drugs to minors or pregnant women, and for the manufacture, transport or sale of hybrid drugs.
3. Amend criteria for possession of Category 1 and Category 2 drugs, replacing the term “pure narcotics” with “narcotics” to reduce testing costs and harmonize domestic law with regulations in other countries. Lower the sentencing threshold for possession of Category 3 and Category 4 drugs from 20 grams (pure narcotics) to 5 grams (narcotics), thereby making distribution more risky.
4. Employ the “administrative interventions first, with judicial sanctions thereafter” model to achieve effective prevention and deterrence. Users of Category 3 or Category 4 drugs with multiple offenses will be fined and complete workshops and counseling first. Those who fail to complete prescribe counseling, or are convicted of drug offenses four times or more within a three year period, will then be subject to criminal sanctions
5. Introduce an expanded confiscation system to cut off money flows generated by drug trafficking.
6. Devise amendments to bring emerging illegal drugs and similar substances and precursors under legal supervision all at once, closing any loopholes where these substances that are not yet under legal supervision can be circulated.
7. Amend regulations regarding rewards and punishments in anti-drug efforts, giving equal weight to the number of suspects investigated and the amount of drugs confiscated to incentivize drug enforcement efforts and trace upstream drug sources.
8. Establish a reporting and tracing mechanism for military cases involving drugs.
9. Continue to promote legislation that holds venues of special businesses responsible for drug control to foster a safe and clean entertainment environment free of drug parties and gatherings.

III. Conclusion

Because drug abuse prevention and control efforts have a major impact on public safety and national development, the government’s new-generation anti-drug policy takes a more comprehensive approach to combating drug crimes and preventing the dangers inherent in drug abuse. As Premier Lin Chuan said at the Cabinet meeting on May 11, 2017, “Drug-abuse prevention and control is a major battle that requires the concerted efforts of the central and local governments, and the public and private sectors. This is an appeal to government at all levels and citizens from all walks of life to join forces, and declare war on drug abuse so that drugs will not endanger future generations.”