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.
In large parts of the world, harshly enforced prohibition still prevails, but there is a definite trend towards decriminalising people who use drugs, and more recently, legalising and regulating production and supply.
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).
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.