Medical experts call for global drug decriminalisation! Or finally some expert and evidence based comment rather than right wing shit and the ‘war on drugs’…..
An international commission of medical experts is calling for global drug decriminalisation, arguing that current policies lead to violence, deaths and the spread of disease, harming health and human rights. The commission, set up by the Lancet medical journal and Johns Hopkins University in the United States, finds that tough drugs laws have caused misery, failed to curb drug use, fuelled violent crime and spread the epidemics of HIV and hepatitis C through unsafe injecting. Publishing the report on the eve of a special session of the United Nations devoted to illegal narcotics, it urges a complete reversal of the repressive policies imposed by most governments.
“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,” says Dr Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a member of the commission. “The global ‘war on drugs’ has harmed public health, human rights and development. It’s time for us to rethink our approach to global drug policies, and put scientific evidence and public health at the heart of drug policy discussions.”
The commission calls on the UN to back decriminlisation of minor, non-violent drug offences involving the use, possession and sale of small quantities. Military force against networks should be phased out, it says, and policing should be better targeted on the most violent armed criminals.
Among its other recommendations are:
- Minimise prison sentences for women involved in non-violent crimes who are often exploited as drug “mules”.
- Move gradually towards legal, regulated drug markets which are “not politically possible in the short term in some places” although they predict more countries and US states will move that way, “a direction we endorse”.
- Ensure easy access to clean needles, oral drugs such as methadone to reduce injecting and naloxene, the antidote to overdoses.
- Stop aerial spraying of drug crops with toxic pesticides.
The commission comprises doctors, scientists and health and human rights experts from around the world.
Its report says scientific evidence on repressive drug policies is wanting. The last UN special session on drug use was in 1998, under the slogan, “a drug-free world – we can do it”. It backed a total clampdown, urging governments to eliminate drugs through bans on use, possession, production and trafficking.
The commission says that has not worked and that the casualties of that approach have been huge. The decision of the Calderón government in Mexico in 2006 to use the military in civilian areas to fight drug traffickers “ushered in an epidemic of violence in many parts of the country that also spilled into Central America”, says the report. “The increase in homicides in Mexico since 2006 is virtually unprecedented in a country not formally at war. It was so great in some parts of the country that it contributed to a reduction in the country’s projected life expectancy.”
Prohibitionist drug policies have had serious adverse consequences in the US, too. “The USA is perhaps the best documented but not the only country with clear racial biases in policing, arrests, and sentencing,” the commissioners write.
“In the USA in 2014, African American men were more than five times more likely than white people to be incarcerated for drug offences in their lifetime, although there is no significant difference in rates of drug use among these populations. The impact of this bias on communities of people of colour is inter-generational and socially and economically devastating.”
The commission cites examples of countries and US states that have moved down the decriminalisation road. “Countries such as Portugal and the Czech Republic decriminalised minor drug offences years ago, with significant financial savings, less incarceration, significant public health benefits, and no significant increase in drug use,” says the report.
Norman Lamb, a former British government minister and Liberal Democrat MP, said that he supported the Lancet commission’s findings: “The war on drugs has failed and it is Liberal Democrat policy to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all drugs, and introduce a regulated, legalised market for cannabis. Drug use should be treated as a health issue, not as a criminal issue.”