Q&A – 27 January 2014

Puffing from construction material

I am educated and work in a prestigious company but am a drug addict although it is not obvious to many people. Due to difficulty in getting narcotic drugs, I sought other alternatives to calm my nerves and ease my urges. A fellow addict told me that there was a construction material that I could use which when burnt produced smoke that gives me nearly the same satisfaction as the drugs I get with difficulty. The construction material is sold legally in all stores in the country. However someone told me that whilst the material is legal, the effect I get from the smoke that I inhale after burning the material is not legal. Sadly I hear that if I am found using the smoke from the material as narcotic drug, I can still be arrested and charged. Is that true? Lastly is it legal for surgeons to use such drugs? Many of them in Tanzania do so.
BJ, Arusha

The Drugs and Prevention Of Illicit Traffic In Drugs Act (“the Act”) defines “narcotic drug” as any substance specified in the schedule or anything that contains any substance specified in that schedule. Narcotic drug includes anything which contains substances stipulated in the law. If the building material you are referring to contains any of those substances stipulated under the law, that substance in isolation is a narcotic drug.

The Act further states that any person who- (a) smokes, inhales, sniffs or otherwise uses any narcotic drug or psychotropic substances;(b) without lawful and reasonable excuse, is found in any house, room or place for the purposes of smoking, inhaling, sniffing or otherwise using any narcotic drug or psychotropic substances commits an offence and upon conviction is liable to a fine of one million shillings or imprisonment for a term of ten years or to both the fine and imprisonment.
From the above provision, although the building material is a lawful item which can be used for the purposes it is intended for, if the effect of burning such material produces smoke that meets the definition of narcotic drug under the act, then you are committing an offence and can be sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

The same applies to some medicine used in hospitals which contain a percentage of narcotic drugs. If used under doctors’ prescriptions or for hospital purposes, it is legal; however, if one uses them as a narcotic drug i.e. abusing the use of the otherwise legal medicine, such abuse is illegal under the act. Your lawyer can guide you further.

It is also illegal for surgeons using drugs. It is stated that many surgeons do get addicted to drugs because of the profession they are in. One of the world’s most famous surgeons of the 1800’s and founder of the world renowned John Hopkins hospital who introduced breast masectomy, Dr William Halsted, was hooked to cocaine, which at that time was not illegal.

All in all, it doesn’t matter who takes a narcotic which under the act is illegal in the circumstances you intend to use.

Fighting in public place

One of my friends was arrested for fighting in the streets with someone. He was arrested and I find it hard to believe that this minor thing is an offence in Tanzania. The police have also charged him with using abusive language, which we hear in any case on the streets everyday. Please guide.
PT, Dar

We are not sure what you want us to guide you with. We equally find it hard to believe that you do not believe street fighting is an offence, especially when you mention “in Tanzania”. Not only is it an offence in Tanzania but in most places in the world, including likely where you come from (if not Tanzania). Street fighting can also result in grievously bodily hard which is a very serious offence.

Our penal code has addressed both these and states that any person who takes part in a fight in a public place is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for six months or to a fine not exceeding five hundred shillings.

Furthermore, section 89 of the Penal Code states that (1) Any person who- (a) uses obscene, abusive or insulting language to any other person, in such a manner as is likely to cause a breach of the peace; or (b) brawls or in any other manner creates, a disturbance in such a manner as is likely to cause a breach of the peace, is guilty of a misdemeanour and on conviction therefore is liable imprisonment for six months. (2) Any person who- (a) with intent to intimidate or annoy any person, threatens to injure, assault, shoot at or kill any person or to burn, destroy or damage any property; or (b) with intent to alarm any person discharges a firearm or commits another breach of the peace, is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year. If the offence is committed at night the offender is liable to
imprisonment for two years.

From the above, you should inform your friend that if he is found guilty he could be sentenced to jail and he should not take this lightly. His lawyers can guide him further.