UN To Call For Global Decriminalization Of Drugs
In an as-yet unreleased statement circulated to the BBC, Richard Branson and others, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which has shaped much of the global drug policy for decades, calls on governments around the world to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption for all drugs. This is a refreshing shift that could go a long way to finally end the needless criminalisation of millions of drug users around the world. The UNODC document was due to be launched at the International Harm reduction conference in Malaysia yesterday.
Yet, in their lust for a drug-free world, governments have poured billions into tough law enforcement that did nothing to reduce drug supply or demand, or take control from the criminal organisations in charge of the global drug trade. In the US alone, over 1.5 million people were arrested in 2014 on non-violent drug charges, 83 per cent of those solely for possession. Globally, more than one in five people sentenced to prison are sentenced for drug offences.
It is good to see that the UNODC have stated, without doubt, that the criminilisation of non violent drug offenders is counterproductive. They also said that the punishments were disproportionate and echoed concerns of the human and monetary costs of their current drug policies as was earlier voiced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
If you look at the available evidence, UNODC is on the right side of history. In places where decriminalisation has been tried, like Portugal, drug-related deaths were reduced significantly, as were new HIV or Hepatitis infections. Combined with harm reduction programmes, decriminalization will save lives as people who use drugs will no longer fear arrest and punishment when accessing healthcare services, it will also reduce crime and ease the burden on prison systems and law enforcement agencies.