Drug Policy Reform in Practice

The academic journal Nueva Sociedad recently released an issue to promote the debate in Latin America on drug policy reform. TNI contributed with the paper "Drug policy reform in practice: Experiences with alternatives in Europe and the US".

Attached files: Drug Policy Reform in Practice

The paper aims to give inputs for the Latin American debate providing an overview of European drug policy practices regarding harm reduction, decriminalization of consumption and possession, and more tolerant policies towards cannabis, particularly in The Netherlands and several states in the US.

Originally, the debate was opened by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, convened by former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico. In February 2009, the Commission issued a report evaluating the impact of the “war on drugs” policies, framing recommendations for safer, more efficient, humane policies.

The report proposed a paradigm shift in strategy concerning the Latin American drug problem; a critical review of deficiencies in the prohibitionist strategy adopted by the Unites States; and an assessment of harm reduction achieved in the European Union. In its article, TNI tries to show that the discussion about drug policy is often hampered by polarized positions of a war on drugs versus legalization. This dichotomy obscures the fact that much experience has been gained regarding less repressive approaches, offering a broad panorama of guiding principles and lessons learned.

The UN drug control conventions have handicapped the search for policy improvements and are plagued with inconsistencies. TNI proposes some urgent revisions of the UN drug control policies and necessary changes in the conventions where they block policy improvements.

About the authors

Martin Jelsma

Martin Jelsma is a political scientist who has specialised in Latin America and international drugs policy.  In 2005, he received the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship, which stated that Jelsma "is increasingly recognized as one of, if not the, outstanding strategists in terms of how international institutions deal with drugs and drug policy."

In 1995 he initiated and has since co-oordinated TNI's Drugs & Democracy Programme which focuses on drugs and conflict studies with a focus on the Andean/Amazon region, Burma/Myanmar and Afghanistan, and on the analysis and dialogues around international drug policy making processes (with a special focus on the UN drug control system). Martin is a regular speaker at international policy conferences and advises various NGOs and government officials on developments in the drugs field. He is co-editor of the TNI Drugs & Conflict debate papers and the Drug Policy Briefing series.

Tom Blickman

Tom Blickman (1957) is an independant researcher and journalist, based in Amsterdam. Before coming to TNI he was active in the squatters and solidarity movements in Amsterdam. He worked for Bureau Jansen & Janssen, a research institute on intelligence and police matters. Now he specialises in International Drug Control Policy and Organised Crime as a researcher at TNI's Drugs & Democracy Programme.

Recent publications from Drugs and Democracy

Towards a Healthier Legal Environment

Since the current drug laws were enacted several important changes have taken place inside and outside of Myanmar. The decision of the Myanmar Government to review the law is not only timely but also offers a prospect to improve the drugs legislation and to ensure that the laws address drug-related problems in the country more effectively.

Mexico: Challenging Drug Prohibition from Below

The horrific forced disappearance of 43 students in Iguala reveals how organised crime and corruption thrive in conditions of institutional or democratic weakness, shaped to a large extent by distinctive transnational relations (importantly, in this case, with the US). Fortunately groups like the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity are showing a burgeoning ‘social power‘ that has the potential to change politics and policy.

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Fixing a broken system

Despite efforts by governments in Latin America, illicit drugs continue to provide one of the largest incomes for criminal organizations, enabling them to penetrate and corrupt political and social institutions.

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The International Drug Control Regime and Access to Controlled Medicines

In poor and developing nations pain remains largely uncontrolled. Africa is the least well served continent for access to analgesia.