Saturday, March 26, 2016

Decriminalize drug use & possession, medical experts urge in advance of UN session

Top medical experts say we should decriminalize all drugs and maybe go even further - The Washington Post - Christopher Ingraham:

March 24, 2016 - "A group of 22 medical experts convened by Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet have called today for the decriminalization of all nonviolent drug use and possession....

"Their report comes ahead of a special UN General Assembly Session on drugs to be held next month, where the world's countries will re-evaluate the past half-century of drug policy and, in the hope of many experts, chart a more public health-centered approach going forward.

"In a lengthy review of the state of global drug policy, the Hopkins-Lancet experts conclude that the prohibitionist anti-drug policies of the past 50 years 'directly and indirectly contribute to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice and the undermining of people’s right to health.' They cite, among other things:
  • A 'striking increase' in homicide in Mexico since the government decided to militarize its response to the drug trade in 2006. The increase has been so great that experts have had to revise life expectancy downward in that country;
  • The 'excessive use' of incarceration as a drug control measure, which the experts identify as the "biggest contribution" to higher rates of HIV and Hepatitis C infection among drug users;
  • Stark racial disparities in drug law enforcement, particularly in the United States;
  • And human rights violations arising from excessively punitive drug control measures, including an increase in the torture and abuse of drug prisoners in places like Mexico.
"'The goal of prohibiting all use, possession, production and trafficking of illicit drugs is the basis of many of our national drug laws, but these policies are based on ideas about drug use and drug dependence that are not scientifically grounded,' said Commissioner Dr. Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a statement.

"For instance, the last time the UN held a special session on drugs, in 1998, it set itself the goal of a 'drug-free world' by 2008.

"The Hopkins-Lancet commissioners also fault UN drug regulators for failing to distinguish between drug use and drug abuse. 'The idea that all drug use is dangerous and evil has led to enforcement-heavy policies and has made it difficult to see potentially dangerous drugs in the same light as potentially dangerous foods, tobacco and alcohol, for which the goal of social policy is to reduce potential harms,' they write."

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