22 medical experts recently gathered together by Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet, have written a report, which called for the worldwide decriminalization of nonviolent drug use and possession.
The experts wanted the US and other countries to “move gradually toward regulated drug markets and apply the scientific method to their assessment.” Their report will be presented to a special UN General Assembly Session on drugs, which will be held on the 19th of April 2016.
The group concluded that the anti-drug policies over the last 50 years ironically “directly and indirectly contribute to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice and the undermining of people’s right to health.”
“The goal of prohibiting all use, possession, production, and trafficking of illicit drugs is the basis of many of our national drug laws, but these policies are based on ideas about drug use and drug dependence that are not scientifically grounded,” said Commissioner Dr Chris Beyrer from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“The idea that all drug use is dangerous and evil has led to enforcement-heavy policies and has made it difficult to see potentially dangerous drugs in the same light as potentially dangerous foods, tobacco and alcohol, for which the goal of social policy is to reduce potential harms“, they wrote. Indeed, alcohol and tobacco have been shown to be far worse than certain drugs.
They note that research “of an estimated 246 million people who used an illicit drug in the past year, 27 million (around 11%) experienced problem drug use, which was defined as drug dependence or drug-use disorders.”
The UN held a similar special session in 1998, where countries agreed to achieve a “drug-free world” by 2008. The group of experts has taken the UN to task for not drawing the distinction between drug use and drug abuse.
“The idea that all drug use is necessarily ‘abuse’ means that immediate and complete abstinence has been seen as the only acceptable approach,” commissioner Adeeba Kamarulzaman said in a statement. “Continued criminalization of drug use fuels HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis transmission within prisons and the community at large. There is another way. Programmes and policies aimed at reducing harm should be central to future drug policies.”
A draft document of the resolution, that will be discussed during the special session, expresses the UN’s commitment “to the goals and objectives of the three international drug control conventions,” calling for countries to “actively promote a society free of drug abuse.” These statements indicate that despite failing to meet their own goals, the UN intends to urge its member nations to continue repeating the own failed policies ad nauseam.
There is another way; the experts cite Portugal as a real-world example of how the war on drugs has only led to the very thing it was ostentatiously designed to combat. Since all drug use was decriminalized, Portugal has shown a marked reduction in drug use rates and overdose deaths. New HIV infections by drug users has also fallen drastically.
The commission also believe that its findings will lead to legalized drug markets:
“Although regulated legal drug markets are not politically possible in the short term in some places, the harms of criminal markets and other consequences of prohibition cataloged in this Commission will probably lead more countries (and more U.S. states) to move gradually in that direction—a direction we endorse.”
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