Two decades after the United Nations declared in 1998 their desire to significantly reduce the presence of controlled psychoactive plants and substances around the world, the assessment of the failure is made obvious every year when the UNODC publishes its annual World Drug Report. While year after year, the inefficiency and counter-productivity of most current anti-drug policies become clearer, the pathways for future legislations that enhance citizens’ rights and equality while protecting public health and strengthening the rule of law remains unclear.
The series of Legal Regulations events has been designed to create, at the crossroads of the global drug control system, the human rights treaties, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and citizen’s aspirations, a momentum of open-ended discussions for stakeholders and interested parties to together shape a practical and ethical set of guidelines for a future in which options for countries to codify the drugs issue will be open and diverse.
Cannabis, the most used substance among the general population and youth, is often targeted as a priority in the reforms to undertake. Whether because of ease, emergency or by popular pressure, the reform of cannabis or other controlled substances’ policies, depending on the local situation, clearly appears to be a necessity. While different scopes, markets and contexts in various countries may change priorities; legal frameworks and pathways for reforms are often similar for cannabis or other substances. Although it is acknowledged that each plant or substance deserves a proper framework, the Legal Regulations Fora seeks to move away from the matter of substances, to think about ethics, feasibility, means, tools, and pathways to follow. Cannabis policies, but also supervised drug consumption rooms, will serve as a departure point to broaden the reflexion on legal regulations.
Starting from the ground-level and unfolding towards a framing within international law, the Legal Regulations Fora wishes to achieve a comprehensive overview and screenshot of the ongoing moves towards legal regulation of controlled drugs around the globe. At each of its steps, the fora will sketch a collective answer to these two questions: is it actually possible to reform, and how to do it? Is it possible and doable to engage in the regulation of prohibited drugs, both for decision-makers and populations? If it is possible, then under what conditions will it succeed in its aim?
At the crossroads of the international drug control convention, the human rights treaties and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this sharing of knowledge (in the home of diplomacy, peace and fairness) is the occasion to say at once “it is possible” and to sketch the “how” with transnational and multidisciplinary perspective.
Interviews aside from the Legal Regulations Fora: tidbits from the UN lobbies
Legal regulation protects health.Kofi Annan
The way that war on drugs is being overtaken is as much, or even more harmful than all the wars that are waging in the world. It’s time to change our strategy.Juan Manuel Santos Calderón
Òscar Pares Franquero (Vice-Executive Director of the International Centre for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service), Barcelona, Spain.
Moderation and closing words.
Agnieszka Sieniawska-Bogumił (Chairwoman, Polish Drug Policy Network), Warsaw, Poland
Jean-Felix Savary (Secretary-general, GREA), Lausanne, Switzerland.
David Borden (Executive Director of DRCnet Foundation, also known as StoptheDrugWar.org), DC, United States of America
The role of civil society, particularly those that have expertise on the matter (from law enforcement or local authorities, health, social and cultural workers to affected populations, people who use drugs and citizens grassroot organizations) is essential to launch the processes of legal regulations, but also for these reforms to be efficient, widely-accepted and duly implemented.
All over the world, regardless of political agendas or national idiosyncrasies, citizenship is in turmoil to adapt national or local drug policies, often outdated, incomplete and inefficient: initiatives that sketch alternative approaches to policing controlled drugs are sprouting up, catching policymakers unawares.
Through a presentation of key issues and meaningful inputs brought by civil society organizations within drug policy reform processes, this Forum of Citizens on Legal Regulations stressed the need to include a broad range of citizenship stakeholders. Outlining the interactions and complementarities between ground-up proposals and top-down reform processes, this 1st forum of the series provided an update of what occurs on the field.
Laurène Collard (Project manager at Fédération Addiction), Paris, France.
Dr. Rick Lines (Executive Director of Harm Reduction International, and Chair of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex.), London, United Kingdom
Dr. Masha Fedorova (Associate Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Radboud University), Nijmegen, the Netherlands
Robert Husbands (Human Rights Officer at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights), Geneva, Switzerland
This Academic conference on Legal Regulations provided an updated analysis of international law, sketching out how the sovereignty of each Member State to the drug control conventions can evolve, in order to implement their own contextual drug legislations while enhancing their respect of human rights.
Recalling recent groundbreaking research, the conference brought a fresh reflexion about the hierarchy of norms between human rights legal instruments and the three international drug control conventions, stating that regulating national drug policies is permitted if it were to protect human rights (including the right to health) more effectively than a total prohibition on drugs. The discussion then focused on specific conditions outlined as critical to stay in line with the drug control convention while complying with the countries’ positive human rights obligations.
Marco Perduca (Former Italian Senator), Roma, Italy.
Luciana Pol (Senior Fellow in Security Policy and Human Rights, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales - Center for Legal and Social Studies), Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Dr. Pavel Bém (Former mayor of Prague and former head of the National drug control authority), Prague, Czech Republic.
Julio Calzada (Sociologist, former Secretary-general of the National Secretariat on Drugs), Montevideo, Uruguay.
María Estrada Ocon (Head of projects and resources area on Prevention. Subdirectorate on Drug Addiction, Department of Health of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Catalonia regional government), Barcelona, Spain.
Brigida Virginia Quiroga Ramos (Congresswoman, member of the Parliament's Committee on the fight against narcotraffic), La Paz, Bolivia.
Drug policy reform usually fails to find its way to a political consensus, falling too often into the jeopardized struggles and divide of national political debate. As modernizing drug policies transcends political labels, it is crucial to take the heat out of the political struggle and come up with a consensual reform among the largest number of political forces, and throughout the broadest social strata.
With the three particular examples of cannabis policies, supervised drug consumption rooms and coca leaf policies, this Forum of Authorities on Legal Regulations — set on the acknowledgement of the 2 previous events, enlightened by an evaluation of current repressive policies and using the SDGs as a cornerstone — focused on the methodologies and pathways that a country shall take if it wants to span the political struggle and reach a widely acknowledged, accepted and consensual reform.
Supervised drug consumption programs (often called “Drug Consumption Rooms”, “Safe consumption facilities” or “Supervised injection places”) are now implemented in 10 countries, for years in some States, while nascent in others, and a few nations are on their way to implement experimental programs. In each of these countries, a comprehensive dialogue and a positive presentation of these programs have been a key element in allowing a large acceptation of the sites, allowing for increased health care and protection for the people who use
Initiated by civil society (users or healthcare workers), supervised drug consumption programs have been deeply questioned and debated by national authorities, before step by step getting implemented, thus finally gaining acceptance at the United Nations level by complying with international law in its finality of protecting health, reducing harm and fighting blood-borne diseases.
The exhibition, held in March 2017 in the United Nations Headquarters in Vienna, during the anniversary 60th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, presented photographs and series of indicators showing the positive health and social outcomes of these programs.