A missed opportunity to end the war on drugs

April 24, 2016


In a blog on the Human Rights Watch website, Diederik Lohman of the Health and Human Rights Division expresses his disappointment with the outcomes of the United Nations summit on drugs. He wrote: “While there are signs many countries are stepping back from the destructive ‘war on drugs’ approach to drugs, it’s hard not to conclude that overall the meeting was a missed opportunity.”

“The increased focus on health and human rights in the document is welcome, but as long as the dominantly courts-and-cops approach to fighting drugs continues, the toll from the fight will far outweigh the damage from the drugs themselves. There is little doubt that tens of thousands of people will continue to suffer from drug-related violence and human rights abuses in the coming years; that drug users and those involved in minor trafficking will continue to fill our jails; and that HIV and hepatitis C will continue to wreak havoc among people who inject drugs.”

Path of reform

There are, however, also encouraging signs. More and more reform-minded countries now support the decriminalization of personal use and possession of drugs, and there is an ongoing debate on the benefits and risks of legalization and regulation of marijuana. Lohman: “Some countries will continue down the path of reform – legalizing (medical) cannabis, decriminalizing drug use, and favoring effective health over criminal justice interventions – while others will double down on harsh law enforcement approaches. But ultimately the reformers are likely to have the advantage. Their approach is based in science rather than ideology, and the evidence suggests strongly that they will attain the better public health outcomes.”


Blog A Missed Opportunity to End the War on Drugs. Diederik Lohman, 22 April 2016

More information about this topic (Open Society Foundations)