World leaders advocate ending all penalties for drug consumption and possession for personal use

November 28, 2016


In the new yearly report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the Commission advocates ending all penalties for drug consumption and possession for personal use. The report, Advancing Drug Policy Reform: a new approach to drug decriminalization, details the destructive and harmful consequences of punitive drug policies and the need to reconsider reviewing current decriminalization models.

The report shows how their implementation has helped to achieve more effective drug policies, with a greater emphasis on justice, dignity and human rights. Building on these successes, the report advocates ending all penalties – both civil and criminal – on persons who use drugs, and issues a call for market regulation as the next logical step.

People-centred drug polices

“After years of denouncing the dramatic effects of prohibition and the criminalization of people that do no harm but use drugs on the society as a whole, it is time to highlight the benefits of well-designed and well-implemented people-centred drug polices,” said former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

“These innovative policies cannot exist as long as we do not discuss, honestly, the major policy error made in the past, which is the criminalization of personal consumption or possession of illicit psychoactive substances in national laws.” César Gaviria, former President of Columbia and member of the Global Commission, said: “At the global, regional or local levels, drug policies are evolving. However, in order to build solid and effective policies to mitigate the harms of the last 60 years of wrong policies, and to prepare for a better future where drugs are controlled more effectively, we need to implement the full and non-discretionary decriminalization of personal use and possession of drugs.”


The report issues the following recommendations:

  1. States must abolish the death penalty for all drug-related offenses.
  2. States must end all penalties—both criminal and civil—for drug possession for personal use, and the cultivation of drugs for personal consumption.
  3. States must implement alternatives to punishment for all low-level, non-violent actors in the drug trade.
  4. UN member states must remove the penalization of drug possession as a treaty obligation under the international drug control system.
  5. States must eventually explore regulatory models for all illicit drugs and acknowledge this to be the next logical step in drug policy reform following decriminalization.

Decriminalization to improve health

“People who use drugs have paid a huge toll to the current drug control system; they faced alone and without any legal protection the ravages of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, as well as many non-communicable diseases,” said Professor Michel Kazatchkine, former Executive Director of the Global Fund on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. “Now we have the scientific and medical tools to provide all the services they need, but we mostly lack the political leadership to implement an enabling legal environment. This starts by the complete decriminalization of drugs.”

Source: Press release Global Commission on Drug Policy, 21 November 2016

Access report Advancing Drug Policy Reform: a new approach to drug decriminalization (various languages), November 2016