With recommendations that include ending criminalization of drug use, decriminalizing and regulating some currently illicit drugs, and ending imprisonment of farmers and couriers involved in illicit drug production and transport, an international panel of government, health, academic and business leaders released a report today urging a global approach to drug control that prioritizes public health and human rights.
The report, Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies That Work comes from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which has produced three previous reports exploring impacts of the nearly half-century international “war on drugs,” one examining the failures of drug control enforcement efforts, and two examining their impact on public health in fueling HIV and hepatitis epidemics. Panelists include Michel Kazatchkine, former director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and current United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as well as former presidents of Portugal, Poland, Columbia, and Switzerland, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.
Pointing to the escalation of drug trade, use, and associated violence and corruption since waves of strict drug control enforcement policies began to take form in the U.S. and then worldwide in the early 1970s, along with the crippling effect those efforts have had on HIV control, pain treatment, and drug overdose response efforts, the commission lays out proposals to address harms from drugs and from current approaches to controlling drugs. The proposals provide groundwork, they say for the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016 to review and reform current drug control policies.
The report calls on policy makers around the world to:
- Reallocate money currently spent on arrests, prosecutions and imprisonment of people who use drugs to funding proven prevention, harm reduction and treatment measures;
- Establish plans and timelines to clear obstacles to pain control medications for ill people, and for international health and drug authorities to ensure equitable and affordable access to the medicines;
- End criminalization of drug use and possession as well as compulsory treatment;
- End incarceration of low-level drug production and transport participants, including farmers and couriers, while focusing on programs to provide legitimate jobs and economic opportunities;
- Direct drug control enforcement resources to the most violent and corrupt drug distribution organizations, while instilling greater accountability for human rights abuses stemming from enforcement efforts;
- Allow and encourage efforts to regulate markets for currently illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and some hallucinogenic drugs.