Martin Jelsma

Martin Jelsma

TNI Drugs and Democracy Programme Coordinator

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.

Areas of expertise:

Illicit Drugs Trafficking & the War on Drugs in Latin America; Drugs and Conflict; Democratisation & Demilitarisation in Latin America; Chemical and Biological War on Drugs; Alternative Harm Reduction Policies; Afghanistan, Burma, Andes


Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship

Media experience:

Martin is an experienced interviewee and publishes in several Dutch newspapers including Vrij Nederland and NRC Handelsblad.



Contact details:

Email: mjelsma [at]

Languages spoken:

English, Dutch, Spanish

Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Recent content by Martin Jelsma

The Rise and Decline of Cannabis Prohibition

March 2014
Cannabis was condemned by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as a psychoactive drug with “particularly dangerous properties” and hardly any therapeutic value. Ever since, an increasing number of countries have shown discomfort with the treaty regime’s strictures through soft defections, stretching its legal flexibility to sometimes questionable limits.

INCB vs Uruguay: the art of diplomacy

December 2013
INCB President Yans disqualifies himself by accusing Uruguay of negligence with regard to public health concerns, deliberately blocking dialogue attempts and having a "pirate attitude" towards the UN conventions, and should consider stepping down.  

De wankelende ‘Weense consensus’ over drugsbeleid

April 2013
Nederland is met zijn drugsbeleid in de achterhoede terecht gekomen. Zo zijn Uruguay en de Amerikaanse staten Washington en Colorado, met hun besluit de cannabismarkt van teelt tot gebruik te legaliseren, Nederland voorbijgestreefd.

Cannabis regulation in Uruguay

July 2012
Uruguay may be poised to become the first country to opt for a state controlled and legally regulated cannabis market for medical as well as recreational purposes, including cultivation and distribution.

A breakthrough in the making?

July 2012
There is an undeniable regional trend of moving away from the ‘war on drugs’ in Latin America. This briefing ex­plains the background, summa­rises the state of on­going drug law reforms, and makes recommendations to move the debate forward.

Drugs on Latin America summit's agenda

April 2012
A critical rethink of the war on drugs features prominently on the agenda of the Cartagena summit. This provides opportunities to move forward but also faces several risks that could suffocate the remarkable yet incipient political opening of the drugs debate in Latin America.

Tackle Burma's Drugs Problem

April 2012
Policy priorities should focus on how best to manage and reduce the many health and social harms associated with the reality of a persistent and ever changing drugs market. 

The Limits of Latitude

March 2012
A growing number of nations are developing policies that shift away from the prohibition-oriented failed approach to drugs control. Ultimately however nations will need to reform the overall UN based global drug control framework of which practically all nations are a part.

Chewing over Khat prohibition

January 2012
Khat has been consumed for thousands of years in the highlands of Eastern Africa and Southern Arabia.Strict bans on khat introduced in Europe ostensibly for the protection of immigrant communities have had severe unintended negative consequences.

In memoriam: Adrian Cowell

October 2011
Adrian Cowell, a groundbreaking documentary film maker and good friend, died early October in London.