The order comes after those arrested with SP+ contested that they were charged for SP

Upon verification by the Office of Attorney General (OAG) and the Royal Bhutan Police, those convicted for abusing and peddling of Spasmo Proxyvon Plus (SP+) but charged for Spasmo Proxyvon (SP) can now appeal for thrimthue in lieu of prison terms, the Supreme Court has stated.

The Supreme Court issued a notification on August 16 to courts across the country.

As the content of SP+ is tramadol, which is not in the scheduled list of controlled substances, the Supreme Court’s notification stated that all individuals sentenced for trafficking SP+ within July 26 can avail for thrimthue, in accordance with the notification issued on July 28.

However, it stated that the OAG and Police must verify that the appellant was involved in SP+ case while they have been charged for SP.

The notification comes after the Supreme Court judgment of July 26 let off 554 people detained and charged for possessing and trafficking SP+ by allowing them to pay thrimthue. Following the judgment, the OAG received more than a dozen reports from family members contesting that their relatives were wrongly charged for SP while they were arrested with SP+.

The notification states that all individuals and organisation must concede to the decision.

SP was banned in Bhutan under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act (NDPSSAA) 2015, which came into force on July 20, 2015.

SP+ came into the market sometime in the third quarter of 2015.

During the initial stage, SP+ cases were investigated as SP cases. Investigation reports from the police to the OAG came as SP cases. OAG prosecuted these cases as SP and the courts rendered judgments as SP cases too.

After some defense counsels raised the issue, SP+ cases came to the OAG as SP+ cases and not as SP. While many people convicted for SP are now claiming that they were caught with SP+ and not SP, the police, OAG and court records indicate otherwise.

It has been established that the main content of the SP drug is dextropropoxyphene, where as the main content of SP+ is tramadol. However, pharmacists claimed that all other elements in both SP and SP+ are the same, and the two drugs have the same effect on the users.

The precedent-setting judgement of July 26, involving a 23-year-old man who was arrested with more than 1,125 capsules of SP+ in Mongar, has resulted in empowering the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) to update the list of banned substances, annexed to the NDPSSAA 2015.

Tshering Dorji