Decriminalisation

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has responded to the ‘leak’ of its briefing paper calling for the decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use. Before considering this response, it’s important to be clear this wasn’t really a ‘leak’ in the classic sense. The document was to be presented by the UNODC at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Kuala Lumpur, and an embargoed copy had already gone to select media (the norm for such publication events).
As reported by the BBC, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the agency that has overseen the global drug war for 50 years, has been blocked from announcing its momentous new position – that all countries should decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use.
We urge you to use these quotes to hold politicians account. If you hear or read that they’re disputing the evidence on decriminalisation, or arguing that it’s a fringe position, ask them what secret knowledge they're privy to that these experts are apparently not.
If drug use is going down, then isn’t this proof that our approach to drugs is working? It seems at first glance like a reasonable assumption to make. The Prime Minister certainly thought it was a plausible counter-argument to the widespread calls for decriminalisation witnessed last week.
The United Nations' leading health agency, the World Health Organization, has called on countries around the world to end the criminalisation of people who use drugs.
Last month, we released a short briefing that debunked some of the claims made about the innovative approach to drug policy taken in Portugal, where personal drug possession is not treated as a criminal offence and health and harm reduction services have been significantly expanded. Here are seven charts that reveal the extent of the success that Portugal has had with this approach.
In 2001, Portugal decided to stop treating personal drug possession as a criminal offence, and instead treat it as a health issue. Now, more than 10 years on, we look at the effects of this policy – and some of the claims that have been made about it.