In large parts of the world, harshly enforced prohibition still prevails.
But there is a growing trend towards decriminalising people who use drugs, legalising production and supply, and putting the drugs trade under control.
Drug policy around the world is a patchwork of approaches shaped by different cultural, political and social landscapes. It ranges from the national legal regulation of cannabis in Canada and Uruguay, through heroin prescribing in Switzerland, to open street shooting of anyone thought to be a drug user in the Philippines. The death penalty is also still widely used to punish drug-related activities in many countries.
Canada was the first G7 country to formally break ranks with its cannabis legalisation and regulation. Like Transform, the Canadian government believes this will offer young people better protection. Other countries have also shown leadership in by trying out policy innovations: Uruguay was the first country to legally regulate cannabis; Bolivia legalised and regulated coca; and New Zealand carried out pioneering experiments in regulating certain novel psychoactive substances (NPS).
Latin American Partnership
In Latin America, we have a close collaboration with our partners Mexico Unido Contra la Delincuencia (MUCD). Transform and MUCD work together to push for drug policy reforms in Mexico and across the wider region through bodies such as the Organisation of American States. We co-produce briefing papers and reports, share intelligence, and co-organise events at key international forums. Recently, MUCD have taken a leading role in changing Mexican drug policy through, among other things, a series of successful legal challenges. As a consequence, Mexico is now in the process of reforming its law on cannabis.
Our Anyone’s Child campaign also works in Mexico and has produced a powerful digital resource documenting the experiences of some of the thousands of people who have suffered as a consequence of Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’.
Drug Policy at the UN.
Drug policy is controlled nationally but the direction is agreed internationally through three interlinked UN treaties:
- Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, amended by a Protocol in 1972
- Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971
- United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna is composed of 53 Member States and is the central policy-making body for drug-related matters. The last UN General Assembly Special Session to consider drug policy specifically was in 2016.
2019 sees the end of the last 10-year plan to “address and counter the world drug problem”. A special high level meeting before the 2019 CND will consider progress to date and make plans for the next 10 year strategy. Transform will be there working with other non governmental organisation (NGO) colleagues and supportive member states.