The Sikkim government will soon amend its existing laws to decriminalise drug usage and treat it as a disease instead. Chief Minister Pawan Chamling on Wednesday said the law to punish drug peddlers will be made more stringent but using drugs will not be treated as an offence. Instead, it will be treated as “an illness which needs treatment or therapy”.

Chamling was addressing an event at Saramsa, about 15 kilometres from state capital Gangtok. The government would motivate those using drugs, especially youngsters, to look for treatment, he said.

Chamling said stigmatising drug users as criminals would not help them quit the habit, according to The Telegraph. “If someone is a criminal, he will hide. If you are considered sick, the stigma of being criminal will not be there,” he said. “We in Sikkim will not call those consuming drugs as criminals, but as patients. The government will provide them with treatment.”

Sikkim Health Secretary Vishal Chauhan said the proposed changes would help treat drug users. He said that the government has ordered the department to carry out a study on the causes behind drug abuse and ways to prevent it, according to the Telegraph. Chamling added that he was trying to contact actor Sanjay Dutt to visit the state and encourage youth to overcome drug addiction.

In Sikkim, those dealing in contraband substances can be sent to prison for a period of six months to five years and fined Rs 1 lakh, under the provisions of the Sikkim Anti-Drugs Act, 2006. A person found guilty of taking drugs can be jailed for six months and fined up to Rs 20,000.