“Pathways to Drug Policies that Work”

A number of world leaders call for ending criminalization of drug use and possession and responsible legal regulation of psychoactive substances

Former Presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland Join With Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, George Shultz, Paul Volcker And Others To Make Bold, New Recommendations for Major Paradigm Shift in Global Drug Policy on the Road to UN Special Session on Drugs in 2016

Note: the opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Dianova International

Opinion  – "Taking Control": Pathways to Drug Policies that Work

(…) A new and improved global drug control regime is needed that better protects the health and safety of individuals and communities around the world. Harsh measures grounded in repressive ideologies must be replaced by more humane and effective policies shaped by scientific evidence, public health principles and human rights standards. This is the only way to simultaneously reduce drug-related death, disease and suffering and the violence, crime, corruption and illicit markets associated with ineffective prohibitionist policies. The fiscal implications of the policies we advocate, it must be stressed, pale in comparison to the direct costs and indirect consequences generated by the current regime.

(…) The obstacles to drug policy reform are both daunting and diverse. Powerful and established drug control bureaucracies, both national and international, staunchly defend status quo policies. They seldom question whether their involvement and tactics in enforcing drug policy are doing more harm than good. Meanwhile, there is often a tendency to sensationalize each new “drug scare” in the media. And politicians regularly subscribe to the appealing rhetoric of “zero tolerance” and creating “drug free” societies rather than pursuing an informed approach based on evidence of what works. Popular associations of illicit drugs with ethnic and racial minorities stir fear and inspire harsh legislation. And enlightened reform advocates are routinely attacked as “soft on crime” or even “pro-drug.”

The good news is that change is in the air. The Global Commission is gratified that a growing number of the recommendations offered in this report are already under consideration, underway or firmly in place around the world. But we are at the beginning of the journey and governments can benefit from the accumulating experience where reforms are being pursued. Fortunately, the dated rhetoric and unrealistic goals set during the 1998 UNGASS on drugs are unlikely to be repeated in 2016. Indeed, there is growing support for more flexible interpretations and reform of the international drug control conventions aligned with human rights and harm reduction principles.

Taking Control makes seven recommendations which can be summarized as follows:

  •   Put health and community safety first through a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions.
  •   Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain.
  •   Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession – and stop imposing “compulsory treatment” on people whose only offense is drug use or possession.
  •   Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs.
  •   Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state.
  •   Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances.
  •   Take advantage of the opportunity presented by the upcoming UNGASS in 2016 to reform the global drug policy regime.

Global Commission on Drug Policy

Commission Members: Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, Ghana – Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Canada – Pavel Bém, former Mayor of Prague, Czech Republic – Richard Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom – Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair) – Maria Cattaui,  former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland – Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs – César Gaviria, former President of Colombia – Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan – Michel Kazatchkine, UN Secretary General Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, France – Aleksander Kwasniewski, former President of Poland – Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile – George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece – Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal – George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair) – Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy , Spain – Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway – Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru – Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board – John Whitehead, former Deputy Secretary of State, former Co-Chairman Goldman Sachs & Co. and founding Chairman, 9/11 Memorial & Museum – Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico