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Global drugs policy – time for a smarter approach?

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“Putting people’s health and safety first is an imperative, not an afterthought.” New approaches to drugs policy are being adopted by a number of countries around the world. This a chance to move on from the failed and repressive policies of the global war on drugs, say Kofi Annan and Fernando Henrique Cardoso in an opinion piece for CNN.

The global ‘war on drugs’ has failed and should be abandoned in favour of a public health approach, according to Kofi Annan and Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

In an opinion piece for CNN highlighting their work with the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Mr Annan and President Cardoso describe the tragedy of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to drug-related diseases each year and the millions more who are imprisoned while large amounts of tax money are wasted on ineffective and repressive drug policies.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso

Fernando Henrique Cardoso

“Today, we know what works and what does not. It is time for a smarter approach to drug policy. Putting people’s health and safety first is an imperative, not an afterthought”, they write.

They highlight the progressive approaches adopted in a number of countries. In Latin America, they single out the efforts of Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Uruguay as having had “knock-on effects across the neighbourhood.” In Europe, several states are experimenting with health-oriented approaches to drug policy, emphasising “prevention, harm reduction and treatment” as opposed to repressive approaches. They welcome the leadership of “brave leaders” in West Africa who have launched a new commission to tackle organised crime and drug trafficking.

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan

“Even the United States, among the staunchest of all prohibitionist states”, they write, “is enacting new approaches to drug policy.” Several US states have introduced new regulations for adult consumption of cannabis, suggesting this approach could spread nationwide.

Recognising that “there is no single simple answer or one-size-fits-all solution”, they call on countries to continue their work within the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna to advance a global public health approach, looking ahead to 2016 when a special session of the UN General Assembly will discuss drug policy.

“We urge enlightened leadership to ensure that the world looks forward”, they write.

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