The Government of the Republic of Maldives has ratified all the three UN conventions related to narcotic drugs, namely, the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, 1961 (as amended by the 1972 Protocol), the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.
Official recognition of the drug problem came in 1977 when a person was arrested with 350 grams of hashish. As a result, the first principal legislative act of the Maldives dealing with narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (Law No 17/77 – The Law on Drugs) was passed the same year in order to help the legal system deal with it, and to act as a deterrent. The Law on Narcotics Drugs (Law No. 17/77) is the principal Legislative Act of the Maldives dealing with narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances. Since the adoption of the Law on Narcotics Drugs, the many social and economic changes brought in the country have resulted in the increase of the magnitude and nature of the problem. Hence, the Government in 1995 introduced substantial amendments to Law No. 17/77.
The First Amendment to Law No. 17/77 (Law on Narcotics Drugs) of 1995 also contains two tables, one is a list of illegal drugs and the other is a list of controlled substances. Both of these tables have been drawn up according to the schedules of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 (as amended by the 1972 Protocol) and United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971. The First Amendment to Law No. 17/77 makes a significant distinction between users and suppliers. While drug suppliers have been prescribed harsher punishment (provision for prescribing life imprisonment sentences for the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale and possession for sale of narcotic drugs), the amendment looks at users less harshly. They are generally given opportunities to reform and become useful members of the society. Thus they receive suspended sentences and may enter a Drug Rehabilitation Centre. After rehabilitation, they are released on parole for a prescribed period after which the sentence is annulled. The amendment also provides legal immunity for those who opt for voluntary rehabilitation.
One–third of the respondents in the RSA reported that they could get drugs within the prison. The report suggests that there are more than 800 drug users currently in prison. A lack of any therapeutic intervention means that very little is done to motivate drug users to quit their habit. The banishment of drug users to different islands was felt to be counter–productive by many key informants since this only displaced the problem from one region to another. There is an expressed need for a model for therapeutic intervention in prisons.