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Drug Policy Reform
What do we mean by "drug policy"?
Global drug policy is currently governed by 3 UN conventions that prohibit the possession, consumption, production and trafficking of substances defined as illicit drugs. These conventions bind UN member states to maintain a legal framework within their countries which make certain drug related activities illegal.
The three conventions are:
- The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961
- The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971
- The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
National drug policies conform to these conventions by having a combined approach of measures aimed at reducing the supply and demand of drugs as well as having policies that mitigate the harms associated with drug use. Supply side reduction measures involve intercepting drug trafficking and engaging in foreign policy aimed at destroying the cultivation of plants used to make drugs. Demand reduction measures include things like, fines, incarcerating people for drug offences, awareness campaigns. Measures aimed at reducing drug related harm include things like needle exchanges, drug substitution programs, drug testing kits and so on
Why are they not working
- The current approach of criminalising drug use exacerbates the potential harms of young people and undermines their public health. Through the fear of arrest, current drug policies based on criminalisation encourages unsafe drug taking practices and continues to alienate and marginalise young people, deterring them from accessing health services and treatment. Furthermore, they have lead to the diversion of resources away from proven public health interventions and encouraging high risk behaviours.
- A vast illegal black market drug trade worth at least $300 billion has been created with crime and corruption associated with this trade impacting upon all levels of society from street dealers, to politicians.
- This war on drugs has also resulted in widespread human rights violations from mass incarceration in the United States for people with drugs offences to extra-judicial killings in Thailand’s crackdown on drug users to drug detention centres in South East Asia, to the denial of basic health services in Russia.
Prohibition is ineffective. Consumption levels among young people remains high despite the severe punishments faced by young people around the world. Furthermore, the penalties for drug related offences are both severe and unevenly applied between the rich or influential and the poor and socially excluded.
What kind of drug policy reforms do we want to see?
Youth RISE believes that we need to see a fundamental paradigm shift away from law enforcement as the main approach to dealing with drug use and instead we need to create and implement evidence based policies that prioritise human rights, health and treatment in order to reduce drug related harm for our youth. This means removing punitive laws that criminalise young people for drug use and possession for use.
Current punitive laws that punish drug use are disproportionate, lead to worsening health consequences and stigmatises young drug users creating greater social exclusion and marginalisation.
Sanctions faced by young drug users must be proportionate and appropriate. The placement and treatment of young drug users in prisons and detention centres must also be appropriate including; not mixing youth and adult prisoners, recognizing the specific needs of young people incarcerated, and ensuring the availability of treatment and harm reduction services in prisons and humane treatment of young drug users in accordance with human rights principles.