The Government intends to tighten control on ketamine, in view of the rising number of reported ketamine abusers, and the possibility of the drug to be used to facilitate "date rapes" and serious assaults.
The Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (Amendment of First Schedule) (No. 2) Order 2000 made by the Chief Executive proposes to include ketamine in Part I of the First Schedule to the Ordinance.
The Order will be gazetted on 24 November 2000 (Friday). The proposed amendment will be tabled at the Legislative Council on 29 November 2000 and will take effect on 15 December 2000.
Ketamine is currently controlled as a Part I poison under the Poisons List Regulations and a Third Schedule poison under the Pharmacy and Poisons Regulations. With this classification, ketamine can only be sold, on a doctor's prescription, by pharmacies registered under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, and under the supervision of a registered pharmacist.
At present, charges of unlawful possession of ketamine under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance could be brought against offenders, with a maximum penalty of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment.
When the amendment takes effect, the control over ketamine will be the same as that over other dangerous drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. The import, export, manufacture, supply, storage and possession of ketamine will be subject to stringent control. Trafficking and illicit manufacture of the drug will lead to penalty as high as life imprisonment and a fine of $5 million.
Ketamine, or "K", is a central nervous system depressant which has been used overseas to facilitate rapes and sexual assaults. It is a rapid-acting drug and has sedative-hypnotic, analgesic and hallucinogenic properties. It is used in Hong Kong as a general anesthetic in both human and veterinary medical practice. It is also reportedly used as an alternative to cocaine.
Ketamine abuse was first captured by the Central Registry of Drug Abuse in 1999. The number of reported abusers of ketamine recorded in the first half of 2000 was 453, representing a twenty-fold increase compared with 21 reported abusers in the second half of 1999.
Seizures of ketamine by law enforcement agencies in early-2000 also reveal that this drug has been gaining popularity rapidly as a party drug in Hong Kong.
Ketamine which is abused is generally illegally diverted or stolen from veterinary supplies at clinics, zoos or farms, etc. Ketamine is believed to be smuggled into Hong Kong, mainly in innocuous looking containers, such as contact-lens fluid bottles.
End/Wednesday, November 22, 2000