On January 21, the Court of First Instance of El Kef sentenced three young people to 30 years in prison for the use of cannabis in a public space. The sentence caused a scandal, reviving the debate around Law 52 of 1992 relating to narcotics. A court hearing for the three youths from El Kef set for February 16 was postponed to March 9, when two of the three were released, but the controversy is still likely to linger.

Issued during the Ben Ali era, Law 52 mandates a minimum one year prison sentence for the possession and use of narcotics. Having once served as a means to restrain youth, the law has continued to be enforced even after the revolution, provoking a mobilization that aims to repeal it.

An Amendment, but no Change?

It wasn’t until 2017 that the law was partially reformed. The amendment of Law 52 allowed for judges issuing sentences to take into consideration mitigating circumstances, which was not the case in the law’s original version. This discretionary power granted to judges allows them to replace a prison sentence with the a probation or a fine; the goal is to avoid landing those accused of drug use in a prison cell and in turn destroying their future.