Chencho Dema 

Punakha – After Thimphu and Phuentsholing, Punakha is now emerging as a new hub of trafficking for controlled substances with a reported 32 cases of drug abuse involving drug users and traffickers from 2022 till date.

Police arrested 42 individuals for drug use, 18 for trafficking, from which three have been sentenced to more than six years in prison. The remaining cases were submitted to the Office of the Attorney General. 

Drug users were found to be abusing locally available marijuana and hashish, while few tested positive for pharmaceutical drugs. 

Most of those involved were men between 18 and early 50s. 

From last year, till date, police seized more than 2,174 capsules of SP+, five pieces of Nitrosun 10 tablets, and more than 608.5 grams of marijuana and hashish. Last year, about 157 capsules of SP + along with 40 tablets of Nitrosun 10 tablets, and 62 grams of marijuana and hashish were seized by the police. 

Records show that most of the abusers arrested by the police tested positive for marijuana popularly known as ‘ganja’ or ‘Black’. A small quantity of hashish or marijuana leaves were recovered from them. The traffickers also tested positive for drugs. 

Arrested abusers were directed to the Narcotics Control Authority for counselling. 

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of the Narcotics Drugs and Other Vices Division, Colonel Dorjee Khandu, says that suspects are abusing marijuana as it is the season of the marijuana plants. 

“As Punakha is in close proximity to Thimphu with increasing arrests, drug users are moving to Punakha. This has led to increased arrests in the dzongkhag,” he said. 

The suspects were believed to arrive in groups or pairs in a day and occasionally in the early hours. Shengana gewog is an ideal spot for traffickers and users of controlled substances in the dzongkhag.

Sources said that the suspects travel to Shengana to cultivate and harvest marijuana since it is believed to be of higher quality compared with those found in other dzongkhags. “Marijuana is widely grown in the gewog,” a source said. 

Punakha is one of the seven dzongkhags with a separate independent Narcotic Drugs Law Enforcement Unit to counter substance abuse. An officer is also deployed to look after the drug related cases. 

Punakha police carry out awareness programmes, routine checks based on information from informants.

In an earlier interview, Dorjee Khandu urged the public, particularly those in the rural areas to contact the police if they see outsiders loitering about in the villages. 

However, it was found that the locals were scared of drug abusers, fearing that they might damage the properties of rural people.