Drug Control Commission appointed to combat our “drug crisis”

fili@samoanews.com

To combat the “drug crisis” from which the territory is suffering, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has appointed the American Samoa Drug Control Commission (ASDCC) and tasked it to among other things, “reducing and eliminating the supply of illicit drugs” in American Samoa.

In the meantime, the senate looking to amend the drug law to include a minimum sentence.

SENATE DRUG SENTENCING BILL

Meanwhile, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie is sponsoring a bill that amends current provisions of the law (ASCA 13.1020) Prohibited Actions, which states in part that it is unlawful for any person to deliver, dispense, distribute, possess with intent to deliver, dispense, or distribute, produce, or manufacture a controlled substance.

Additionally, any person who violates this section is guilty of a crime, and upon conviction may be imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or fined not more than $20,000 - or both.

However the Senate bill seeks to amend that, saying, any person who violates this section is guilty and upon conviction “shall” be imprisoned “for not less than 5 years” and not more than 20 years, or fined not more than $20,000 - or both.

In other words, the bill mandates a minimum sentence of 5 years in jail for convicted drug offenders.

DRUG CONTROL COMMISSION

Appointment of the ASDCC, which is made up of representatives from 13 government entities, comes after the governor for several months has urged the entire community to work with the government to rid the territory of the drug problem that has spread to schools. This has also been the same message from certain directors, including traditional leaders and lawmakers.

“American Samoa is suffering from a drug crisis,” Lolo wrote in his Aug. 2 memorandum appointing the ASDCC.

“Our families are being ravaged by drug use and abuse. We must take immediate action to battle this epidemic and while we may have government and private programs operating, we need to combine resources and tackle the problem in its entirety.”

According to the governor, the ASDCC shall be tasked with the goals of:

•reducing and eliminating the supply of illicit drugs;

•reducing drug-related consequences-crimes, violence and healthcare impacts;

•strengthening prevention, enforcement and treatment systems;

•collecting relevant data to better allocate limited resources; and

•mobilizing communities to be more proactive in preventing drug use and abuse.

The governor specifies the ASG entities that are members of the ASDCC: Governor’ s Office, Office of Samoan Affairs, Agriculture, Education, Health, Human Resources, Youth and Women’s Affairs, Port Administration, Public Safety, Treasury, Human and Social Services, Homeland Security, and Legal Affairs.

Each government stake-holder would provide a representative to the commission, and is to give its time and resources to achieve the ASDCC’ s goals.

Additionally, the lead ASDCC agencies are DHSS, DoH and Samoan Affairs, and at their discretion, a governing body would be established from the group to meet regularly to discuss the progress of ASDCC and to create plans to meet ASDCC goals. Lolo directed that the ASDCC governing body shall meet at least once a month and shall provide the Governor’s Office monthly progress updates to ensure the goals are being achieved. Furthermore, ASDCC shall include community stakeholders including but not limited to religious organizations, community coalitions, village councils and organizations, and other non- government organizations.

“Drugs are poisoning our way of life and we must act now to root it out,” the governor said, and directed that governmental departments and agencies are to assist ASDCC in any way needed to help them achieve this goal.

He asked community organizations and the public for their assistance with these efforts “as we all strive to make American Samoa safer and healthier.”

During yesterday’ s cabinet meeting, held at the Agriculture Department conference room, Lolo said the issue that has become very serious in American Samoa is illegal drugs.

He said that upon research, it was found that there is no map or guidelines in the government to combat this serious problem.

Lolo said the Attorney General as well as the ASDCC is working on various ways to combat illegal drugs, which is affecting families, students, children, churches, and even inside government.

He notes that the commission, which is meeting next Tuesday, is the working group but combating this problem is an issue for the entire cabinet, community, churches, and every single individual in American Samoa. The governor stressed that the directors should be part of the commission because it’s the director who makes the final decision for the department or office.

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