Evaluation of the Dangerous Drug Act (1991) Trinidad

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2011

22 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents


Problem Statement

In-depth analysis of Drug Policy

Ideological Assumptions

Theoretical Implications

Limitations of the Drug Policy

Methodological Hurdles

Policy Alternatives/Amendments

Theories/Models in support of policy


How does the model countering the Ideological

Assumptions of current policy?

Countering Methodological Hurdles Identified previously




Illicit Trafficking and Drug Abuse are universal phenomena, which unsystematically affect the individual, the family and all segments of the community. Trinidad has observed an unprecedented upsurge in the prevalence of illicit drug use; mainly cocaine, marijuana and drug related crime and violence since the 1980’s, which are associated with illicit trafficking. This is further aggravated by epidemic of HIV/AIDS, communicable and non-communicable diseases among persons who abuse the use of both licit and illicit substances (Joseph, 2008).

The geo-graphical position of Trinidad and Tobago between the drug producing areas means that the islands are vulnerable to drug trafficking. Maharaj (1998) stated Trinidad and Tobago’s closeness to the South American continent makes it increasingly vulnerable. According to the 1998 International Narcotics Strategy Report (INSR), Trinidad is increasingly a primary location for drug transhipment; as well as other manifestations of trans-national organized crime such as, money laundering, firearms trafficking, precursor chemical diversion, human trafficking and corruption. Therefore, the trafficking and distribution are now serious challenges for society and young citizens which are having enormous adverse effects on the social, political, economic and cultural spheres of our lives.

“Nothing poses a greater threat to civil society in CARICOM countries than the drug problem; and nothing exemplifies the powerlessness of regional government more. This is the magnitude of the danger drug abuse and drug trafficking hold for our community. At base is the human destruction implicit in drug addiction; but implicit also is the corruption of individuals and systems by the sheer enormity of the inducement of the illegal drug trade in poor countries” (West India Commission, 1992).

Trinidad and Tobago is a popular tourism destination; and each tourist has the potential to increase the opportunities for the sale or trans-shipment of illegal drugs - many engage in both. The increasing presence of yachts and pleasure crafts as vacationing media has greatly enhanced the potential for drug smuggling in and out of Trinidad and Tobago waters (Joseph, 2008).

Furthermore, the large expanse of coastline creates indicates, it is poorly patrolled which provides relatively easy points of entry; fishing crafts combined with other marine activities presents numerous opportunities for drug trafficking.

Joseph (2008) states, drug trafficking impacts politically, with enormous resources at their disposal, which have an open-ended capacity to infiltrate, subvert or eliminate institutions and people who stand in their way, and consequently undermine the political and economic stability of the country. This in turn creates fertile ground for new cycle of negative consequences including expansion of the drug trade, the use of violence and intimidation to conduct business, civil strife, gang-related activities and terrorist acts.

Joseph (2008) further stated that the drug trade also impacts the creation of a parallel economy, because other activities such as money-laundering and terrorist financing affect the national reputation which negates the country’s potential to attract international funding and foreign investors. Furthermore, the illicit trade hampers the productive human capacity because it is a viable income-generating activity for individuals who either abandon the search for legal employment and engage in illicit trafficking activities, or become unemployable due to their drug use because individuals gravitate towards the trade in search of 'easy money'.

Despite Trinidad and Tobago distinctive socio-cultural heritage, vulnerabilities in its social fabric has negatively impact its stability. According to Joseph (2008) the drug trade has created new dreadful dimensions to the socio-cultural make-up of the society, by increasing crimes such as shootings, murders, kidnappings, bribery and extortion, since in many instances these have their genesis in drug-related activities. Ironically, unemployment and poverty can be both sources and consequences of involvement in the drug trade, particularly for substance abusers. The report of the West Indian Commission (1992) stated “there is an acute awareness that in our small societies they (drug abuse and drug trafficking) spell disaster for people, for institutions, for values, for the fabric of society itself”.

It has been established according to Joseph (2008) that all illegal drugs consumed locally are imported including marijuana, though we produce it locally. Marijuana is the only drug produced naturally in Trinidad and Tobago, both for domestic consumption and export. In terms of export, all illegal drugs, apart from marijuana exported from Trinidad and Tobago, are either transited or trans-shipped.


Trinidad and Tobago illicit drug transhipping economy is premised upon the transhipping of cocaine and heroin from Venezuela to markets in Europe and the US and the production of marijuana for local consumption and export. “There then exist complex multi- realities illicit drug economy operating in Trinidad and Tobago which has over the years developed complex power relations between the licit economy and the illicit drug economy, between the political elites and the illicit drug economy and between officials of the state and the illicit drug economy” (Figueira, 2004).

The drug trade is an organised worldwide industry, where suppliers do whatever is necessary to ensure that their trade continues without apprehension of reprisal or conviction. The problems associated with illegal narcotics and narco-trafficking have affected the legal, social, economic, political and psychological fabric of Caribbean societies. The development of the country is distorted when resources have to be channelled from development investments to drug trafficking eradication strategies (Chadee, 1998).

Illicit drugs affect every level of society. Problems associated with substance abuse, production of illicit drugs and drug trafficking cause harm to individuals, families and communities which are reflected in serious problems such as disintegration of the family institution, the decline of community life, poor performance at school and the emergence of violence and intimidation as an acceptable approach to life. The illicit drug activity both trafficking and abuse and it resulting manifestations such as crime, armed violence, money laundering and corruption pose challenges to the overall development of Trinidad and Tobago.

Deoseran & Chadee (1997) found that just over 6% of all incarcerated youths in Trinidad and Tobago were placed into juvenile homes for drug related crimes/offences. Currently there has been 914 drug related offence over the 3 months period in 2011. It has also been estimated by the TTPS and CAPA for 2010 there were 4474 drug offences, which has been on a steady increase since the year 2000, on average a total of 5059 cases per year; a total of 50,593 drug offenses over a 10 year period. These figures just allow us to see the nature and the extent of the drug problem that exist in Trinidad.

Drug trafficking has been a persistent problem which the Trinidad and Tobago government has had to continuously address. Chadee (1998) noted that Trinidad “is a major transhipment point for drugs”. This point was reiterated in the Report of the International Narcotics Control Board (1991), which state that the abuse of cocaine continues to increase in Trinidad and Tobago. Law enforcement authorities indicate that the presence of cocaine in the country has led to a dramatic increase in criminal activity.


The Dangerous Drug Act of 1991, last amended in 2000 is guided by national policy on illegal drugs and trafficking. It provides control of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The illegal narcotics and psychotropic dealt with by the act include; heroin, cocaine, opium, morphine and marijuana. The act left opportunity for addition of other substances/illegal drugs at the discretion of the Minister of National Security; ecstasy. Minister of National Security is empowered by the act to give permission/licences for entities and individuals to import, export, sell, use, manufacture and produce narcotics. All persons outside those given permission/ licenses mainly based on medical grounds will be subject to prosecution.

There has been a drastic change in the policy as it relates to possession of illegal drugs; any person in possession of a certain quantity will be deemed a trafficker. These quantities include: twenty grams of diacetylmorphine (heroin); ten grams of cocaine; five hundred grams of opium; thirty grams of morphine; or one kilogram of cannabis or cannabis resin. The fines and sentences for such have also been increased since 1991, indicating the policy makers have taken a tougher stance on the sale or use of illegal drugs. They now stand a fine of $100,000 on conviction; or 25years to life in prison if the street value of the dangerous drug is three times the fine or greater than that.

The dangerous drug act also deals with the transport and production of dangerous drugs. Also the act makes provisions for the confiscation of proceeds of drug trafficking and other provisions connected to drug trafficking and connected matters. Drug trafficking is a income generating action and the enormous wealth gathered form such activity would be seized by the state, inclusive of bank accounts and other savings, land and property purchases by the illegal funds. This is an attempt to hit drug traffickers where it hurts, which is assumed to be the main driver of the illicit trade.

The National Drug Act of 1991 and it subsequent amendments 1994, 1999, 2000; share a common ideology that guide the development of drug related laws. They function under economic principles and view the drug trade as a business. These economic assumptions resonate in the stiff fines presented in the laws and the stiff sentencing rhetoric as it relates the deviating from the guidelines of the aforementioned act. Therefore, the drug policy functions under the ideology of the economics of the drug trade and classical school of thought. Additionally, based on the ideology the rational choice and deterrence theories should be reflected in the local policy on illegal drugs.


Policy makers view the illegal drug trade from the principles of economics; i.e. supply and demand principles (McConnell et. al., 2008). From this lens the production, distribution and consumption of illegal drugs are seen as a business. Based on these principles there are two main approaches utilized by policy makers in their efforts to counter the illegal trade and its many ills.

Demand reduction strategy is a drug abuse prevention program aimed both at preventing susceptible members of the population from engaging in drug use and rehabilitating those members for the population already addicted to the illegal substances. As such demand reduction is a series of activities and programs carried out on a continuous and systematic basis over a period of time, with a planned curriculum or course of activities and appropriate instructional resources with the intention to reduce the individual susceptibility to engaging in drug use/abuse (Guzman, 2009).

Supply Reduction and control activities are the primary focus of the policy being analyzed. They are designed to improve the country’s capacity to reduce the production, distribution and availability of illicit drugs and the diversion of chemical products used in the manufacture of drugs. These deal with a wide range of enforcement and control issues, including cultivation and production of illicit drugs within national borders; eradication of the plants that generate illicit drugs; production of illicit drugs, including plant-based and synthetic drugs; the distribution and trafficking of illicit drugs by land, air, and sea; patterns of drug consumption; the diversion of pharmaceutical products that could lend themselves to abuse; and, the control of precursors and other chemicals used to produce illicit drugs, among others (Guzman, 2009).

The fundamental basis of supply reduction policies are sound legislative and regulatory foundation with appropriate administrative systems and controls. Regulatory, administrative and law enforcement activities serve to monitor the situation and initiate appropriate investigative and interdiction activities as required. This requires a close connection and working relationship between the various elements concerned which includes; those concerned with policy, regulatory and legislative development, regulatory and administrative controls, law enforcement and customs, prosecutors and the judiciary, among others (Organization of American States (OAS): Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) 2006).

Local authorities have opted to take a supply reduction stance based on what is being reflected in the laws (see Dangerous Drug Act 1991, amended in 2000). There are many factors that influence policy makers decision to focus on one aspect of the drug problem more than another including; ideological assumptions about the persons involved in the drug trade, the geostrategic location of the country, the prevalence of addict related crimes, the quantities and variety of illegal drugs entering the country or being produced.

An ideological assumption is based on the ontology of the individual(s) involved in policy and decision making; and is a crucial component of the final policy document. Ontology is a direct representation of the ‘intransitive domain’ (the reality beyond our knowledge); on the one hand ontology pertains what critical realists refer to as ‘transitive domain’ of fallible-our theoretical interpretations of reality (Cruickshank, 2004). The first view point argues that the individual is not in control and that social forces or the world outside or unknown to the individual controls his reality. This is the view point of structuralist sociologist and social scientists, and absolves the individual of all blame for their action (Archer, 2000).

The second, view of reality is that, individual interprets their world and act based on these interpretations (King, 1999). The ideological assumptions based on this view point are that actors in the illegal economy at all levels are rational actors; keeping in line with the assumptions of the classical school of criminology. Crime they believed was activity engaged in out of total free will and that individuals weighed the consequences of their actions. Punishment is made in order to deter people from committing crime and it should be greater than the pleasure of criminal gains.

Proponents of this ideology; Bentham (1748-1832) believed they put all factors into a sort of mathematical equation to decide whether or not to commit an illegal act. Additionally, he believed that individuals weigh the probabilities of present and future pleasures against those of present and future pain, thus people acted as human calculators. He also believed that punishment should in excess of the pleasures derived from an act. The law exists to create happiness for all, thus since punishment creates unhappiness it can be justified if it prevents greater evil than it produces (Cao, 2004).


An understanding of personal choice is commonly based in a conception of rationality or rational choice. These conceptions are rooted in the analysis of human behaviour developed by the early classical theorists, Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. The central points of this theory are: that the human being is a rational actor; rationality involves an end/means calculation; people (freely) choose all behaviour, both conforming and deviant based on their rational calculations. The central element of calculation involves a cost benefit analysis: pleasure versus pain; choice with all other conditions equal will be directed towards the maximization of individual pleasure. Choice can be controlled through the perception and understanding of the potential pain/punishment that will follow an act judged to be in violation of the social good (the social contract). The state is responsible for maintaining order and preserving the common good through a system of laws (this system is the embodiment of the social contract). The swiftness, severity, and certainty of punishment are the key elements in understanding a law's ability to control human behaviour (Keel, 1997).

"According to this view, law-violating behaviour should be seen as an event that occurs when an offender decides to risk violating the law after considering his or her own personal situation (need for money, personal values, learning experiences) and situational factors (how well a target is protected, how affluent the neighbourhood is, how efficient the local police happen to be). Before choosing to commit a crime, the reasoning criminal evaluates the risk of apprehension, the seriousness of the expected punishment, the value of the criminal enterprise, and his or her immediate need for criminal gain" (Siegel, 1992).


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Evaluation of the Dangerous Drug Act (1991) Trinidad
The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine
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evaluation, dangerous, drug, trinidad, Drugs
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MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice Stacy Ramdhan (Author)Andy Short (Author)Nicole Simon (Author), 2011, Evaluation of the Dangerous Drug Act (1991) Trinidad, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/175650


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