Expert medical panel recommends world-wide drug decriminalization

A panel of 22 medical experts from across the globe released a commissioned report Thursday which analyzes the drug policies of countries all over the world and its effects on the health and well-being of society as a whole.

Most notably, the commissioners recommended complete decriminalization of drug use and possession, and to “move gradually toward regulated drug markets” — meaning legalization such as what states in the U.S. like Colorado and Washington have done with marijuana.

The expert panel was organized by Johns Hopkins University and a UK medical journal called The Lancet.

The commissioned report justified its policy conclusions by citing the devastating effects of the global “war on drugs” which has been in full effect for 50 years now.

Such prohibitive drug policies “directly and indirectly contribute to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice and the undermining of people’s right to health.”

Two specific examples are especially damning.

First, a dramatic rise in Mexico’s murder-rate since militarizing drug enforcement in 2006, which has led to a lower life-expectancy in the country.

Second, the jailing of non-violent drug offenders has led to higher levels of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C and tuberculosis in prison communities and areas where drug use is more prevalent.

The report’s release comes less than a month before the U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to commence a Special Session “on the world drug problem”, April 19 in New York.

In 1998, the same Special Session of the U.N. Assembly announced its goal to eliminate nearly all drug use by 2008. The Lancet-Hopkins commission points out that in defining the problem, U.N. failed 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,” the report says.

The report goes on to cite evidence that only 11 percent of people around the world who used drugs in 2015, “experienced problem drug use . . . defined as drug dependence or drug-use disorders.”

Instead of criminalizing drug users, commissioner Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman said in a statement that, “programmes and policies aimed at reducing harm should be central to future drug policies.”

A successful example of this can be seen in Portugal, which decriminalized recreational drugs in 2001 and now has the second lowest drug-induced death rate in Europe and a reduced rate of new HIV cases among drug users.

In the face of the Lancet-Hopkins report, the U.N. General Assembly will be voting on a resolution at their special session next month to, “reaffirm our commitment to the goals and objectives of the three international drug control conventions”, and “actively promote a society free of drug abuse.”


[Washington Post] [Photo courtesy]