Punakha court last week convicted three men for trafficking cannabis and its derivatives and sentenced them to prison terms ranging between five years and eight months to five years and three months.

Rinchen Gyeltshen is sentenced to five years, eight months for trafficking of hashish and cannabis, Tandin Peljor to five years and seven months and Pema Longko sent to five years and three months. They were arrested on November 8, 2018.

Punakha police found Rinchen Gyeltshen, 25 from Tsento in Paro, in possession of 98.36 grammes of hashish and 0.6 grammes of cannabis on November 8, 2018.

A 21-year old farmer from Paro, Tandin Peljor was convicted of trafficking 95.09 grammes of hashish and 24-year old Pema Longko from Lhuentse, for trafficking 65.08 grammes of hashish.

The judgment stated that since they possessed more than the limit set for hashish in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance and Substance Abuse Act (NDPSSAA) 2018, they were liable for penalty under the Act.

The Act states that a defendant shall be guilty of an offence of illicit trafficking of cannabis and its derivatives, regardless of the degree of purity, if he or she possesses, imports, exports, stores, sells, purchases, transports, distributes, or supplies cannabis or its derivatives if it is more than the quantity determined in Schedule VII of the Act.

The permissible limit in schedule VII for Cannabis is 50 grammes and for Hashish seven grammes.

The offence is graded a felony of third degree if the quantity is more than two times the quantity determined in Schedule VII. If the amount is more than the quantity determined in Schedule VII of the Act but equal to or less than two times the quantity determined, then the offence is graded as fourth degree.

The defendants submitted to the court that the substances were for their personal consumption and not for trafficking. The judgment stated that since the amount they possessed was more than that determined in the Act they was liable for punishment.

The court stated that the amended Act states that notwithstanding the provisions of this Act, a person possessing equal to or less than two times the quantity determined in Schedule VII shall be liable for offence of substance abuse under Section 152 of the Act in lieu of the offence of illicit trafficking.

However, since Rinchen Gyeltshen was convicted in the illegal trafficking of hashish, the court ordered him to attend rehabilitation in prison.

The court ordered police and the Office of the Attorney General to handover the substances involved and submit a report to the court.

At least three people were arrested every day in 2018 for illegal trafficking and abusing drugs in the country, taking the total number of people to 1,188, according to records with the Royal Bhutan Police. This was an increase of 133 people from 2017.

Thimphu has the highest arrest record at 575, followed by Chukha at 217, Sarpang, 103 and Paro with 72 people. At least 70 people were arrested in Samdrupjongkhar, 52 in Punakha, 29 in Wangduephodrang and 28 in Samtse. Trongsa, Zhemgang and Gasa have zero arrest record in 2018. Remaining dzongkhags arrested between one and 12 persons.

Tshering Palden