As the UN celebrated the rather insidious International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a day that has in the past been malevolently marked by executions, a counter voice resonated across the globe thanks to the Support Don't Punish campaign. This simple premise of offering support and compassion towards those that may suffer at the clutches of addiction is a message that global opinion seems increasingly empathetic towards.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) launched its annual World Drug Report and the new campaign, unwieldy titled "Make health your 'new high' in life, not drugs" - the World Drug Report, however, was certainly not hold the front-page stuff, in fact, it was yet another underwhelming report that could not report on any success. What was more than notable was the annual surrender that the current single conventions on drug policy are increasingly left in an abject quagmire. The most prominent note of accomplishment was that manufacture and use of 'controlled' substances were stable compared with that of 2009. The report goes on to confess that global demand for drugs has not been reduced and further concludes that some legislative measures result in human rights violations.
The elephant in the room soon trumpets loudly as the 'legal high' market (New Psychoactive Substances - NPS) has now evolved and replaced the prevalence of the more known and traditional drugs; what we can take from this is that we now enter a new realm in which transparency in figures will be even more difficult to obtain due to the enigmatic nature of NPS.
In contrast to the UNODC's mulishness, the international community staked their own claim in the day by championing the Support Don't Punish day of action. With a coalition of supporting organisations, the day was celebrated in 26 cities around the world with the indefatigable aim of ushering in humane and compassionate laws that are conducive to an evidence-based, health-led, drug policy.
London played host to a gathering of Richard Nixons -- to which the collective noun has yet to be found; Nixon is accredited with the 'war on drugs' motif. The gaggle of Richards accumulated outside Parliament in a mini carnival atmosphere and raised the issue that current drug laws are virulently perpetuating the global HIV and Hepatitis C epidemic. In support were Dr. Julian Huppert MP, and Caroline Lucas MP.
Across the continents similar events also took place with Thailand's Secretary General of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board addressing the crowd in Bangkok in what was said to be a very progressive speech. Russian supporters used medieval stocks to demonstrate the archaic failings of their drug policies.
The Support Don't Punish day of action was in collaboration with INPUD, Harm Reduction International, Independent Drug Policy Consortium, and the International Aids Alliance. For a full collection of pictures from across the 26 cities of action, see the Support Don't Punish Facebook page.
For UK supporters of drug policy reform, an impact assessment is in need of signatures: Caroline Lucas MP started the e-petition so as to encourage the full cost benefit analysis and investigation into UK drug laws.
As we look to next year's celebrations, the only thing we can probably say with any real certainty is that the clamour and support for a rational alternative to our global drug 'control' is going to increase. With each new death due to blood-borne disease, with every tragic death in war zones like Mexico, and with the increasingly unpredictable 'legal high' market paving the way for the next challenge, it's going to be exponentially harder for the UNODC to ignore the worldwide discontent with the single conventions that are stonewalling progressive drug laws.
To sign the UK e-petition calling for an impact assessment please click here.