Despite this weight of evidence and 2,000 deaths per year, we continue to criminalise drugs rather than treating it as a public health issue. So why does the UK insist on digging its heels in and sticking to the same flawed approach? Moralising and point-scoring is preventing decision-makers from looking objectively at the evidence, which points towards a harm-reduction approach.
There is much to say about this Nixon-style war on drugs. But what about Dutertenomics? Indeed, much of the discourse has been overshadowed by the slew of state-sponsored killings. By focusing too hard on the reactions coming from the drug war, it can be difficult to realise the counter-narratives surrounding other policy areas.
A blanket ban in itself is perhaps not a bad thing. But placing the burden wholly on the police to eradicate NPS use is unlikely to yield results. The government must do better and it could start by increasing the paltry £180,000 it currently spends on educating young people about drugs. .. Education and medical support can be no more expensive than condemning vulnerable young users to long sentences in prison. And this is not the binary problem the government's catch-all law suggests. A ban may keep costs off the statute book, but it won't conceal the reasons some of the most vulnerable young people are turning to often dangerous, now illegal highs.
We are commonly told by political leaders that punitive drug laws are needed to 'send a message'. Perhaps, then, the most powerful way that non-death penalty States can truly challenge capital punishment for drugs is to reject the supremacy of punitive suppression within their own domestic drug laws...
The UNGASS was a disappointment to both progressives and hardliners alike. Whilst we may decry the small progress in the outcome document, we can find solace in the fact that an increasing number of countries seem intent on acting unilaterally outside the UN Drug Conventions. Principled non-compliance may start to become the norm.
The cannabis debate is in a strange place at the moment: the evidence available is better than ever, debate is more mainstream, money (still not much) is available for people to study drug policy, and yet the international debate is stifled and the old school of the policy world is still promulgating evidence based on fear, not reason.
This UNGASS demonstrates the impact civil society pressure can achieve. The drug policy reform movement will continue to grow into a formidable global social movement towards 2019. The collective demand for change will grow ever louder leading to sustainable and seismic break-throughs at national, regional and ultimately UN levels.
We the undersigned call on Governments and Parliaments to recognise that: Fifty-five years after the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was launched, it is clearly evident that the global war on drugs has had many unintended and devastating consequences worldwide, and has failed to eliminate drug production or drug use.
About two years ago I moved into a property buried deep in a London suburb. For reasons that will become clear the location will remain undisclosed, though It is owned by a housing trust and leased out to an agency; who fill it with people like me in order to keep vandals and sex workers from illegally squatting in the empty building. It's a regular fixture in the London living scene (especially for struggling artists) so I won't bore you with the details.
This Bill will push users into the hands of criminal street dealers in hard drugs and overseas-based internet suppliers who could not care less about what's in the drugs they supply or what effect they have on their clients. The internationally respected expert Professor David Nutt believes this Bill will "increase harm and deaths". Surely that is the last thing anybody wants and yet that is what the Conservative government and the Labour 'opposition' have signed.
Real drug policy changes are possible. As we've seen this year, they often happen at the national level, and UNGASS will be an important moment to think about our collective approach to drugs and drug use, to challenge the prohibitionist regimes that undermine human rights, social justice, and public health. Reform-minded nations like the ones highlighted above can be leaders in that process.