In defense of humane drug policies

The international drug control system is broken. Since this system was established in 1961 with the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, it has consistently sought to enforce a policy of prohibition, with the aim of eradicating drugs from society.

Not only is the failure of this approach to drug control self-evident, the efforts to achieve a “drug-free society” have exacted a heavy price on societies worldwide, in the form of human rights violations, overcrowded prisons, an increase in violence and drug-related overdose deaths, and a lack of access to health services and essential medicines for those who need them. Prohibition has further contributed to stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs, enriched and empowered organized crime, and undermined the rule of law.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy advocates for more effective and humane drug control policies.

At the multilateral level, however, there is still a consensus on maintaining prohibition among global powers such as China, Russia, Brazil, France, the UK, and the US at the federal level. Furthermore, despite promising shifts in places like Thailand and Malaysia, many countries across Southeast Asia, as well as the Middle East, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe, continue to apply harsh penalties for drug-related offenses. Some 35 countries still allow the death penalty in certain cases, while the Philippines has been conducting a brutal anti-drug campaign since 2016, now emulated by other countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

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