The Legislative Assembly (AL) passed on Thursday a government-initiated amendment will which toughens the anti-drug law, slated to take effect 30 days after its promulgation in the Official Gazette (BO).
The anti-drug law was enacted in 2009.
The bill will increase the minimum prison term for the selling of drugs from the current three to five years.
The bill’s outline was approved in January. The legislature’s 3rd Standing Committee held five meetings to review the bill article-by-article, legislator-cum-banker Cheang Chi Keong, who chairs the committee, said during yesterday’s session.
According to the bill, the current maximum sentence for drug trafficking will remain unchanged at 15 years.
The bill also proposes to replace the maximum three-month sentence for drug-taking with a prison term ranging from three months to one year.
The bill states that if the amount of drugs carried by a suspect exceeds the amount one would usually take in five days, the case will be considered a drug-selling offence.
During previous committee meetings with government officials, the legislature’s 3rd Standing Committee suggested that cross-border drug-trafficking – when a person smuggles drugs into Macau – should face a higher prison term than the local selling of drugs. However, the government did not accept the suggestion.
Speaking during Thursday’s session, lawmaker-cum-unionist Ella Lei Cheng I questioned why the government did not accept lawmakers’ suggestions to impose heavier punishments on those engaged in cross-border drug-trafficking than on those selling drugs locally, similar to the sentencing practice in neighbouring regions.
Responding to Lei’s question, Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan said that if cross-border drug-trafficking suspects were to face a heavier punishment than those selling drugs locally, it would mean that they would face eight to 20 years behind bars. She said the punishment would be too severe, compared to the various crimes listed by Macau’s legal system.
Chan also said that those who smuggle drugs into Macau are usually paid by drug gangs to carry out the crime, adding that the current anti-drug law imposes heavier prison terms on those organising cross-border trafficking than on the couriers (commonly known as mules) hired by them.