The opening in September 2012 of the first centre for drug addicts in Bogota is a welcome first step towards more humane and effective drug policies in Colombia’s capital city, but to be effective needs to be integrated into proper overall drugs strategy.
Although illicit drug use has been declining in the UK, long-term problem drug use and drug-related deaths are not decreasing, says the British Medical Association. Its Board of Science says evidence shows the current prohibitive approach to drug use is not working. It says doctors should inform drugs policy to put patients' needs first.
Peter Sarosi, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
16 January 2013
Last year the HCLU’s video advocacy group travelled to Vancouver, to make a film about Insite, the only legally-operating injecting facility in North America. When we arrived at Hastings Street, in Vancouver's downtown Eastside, where Insite is located, we were taken aback by the magnitude of the street drug scene we found there.
Around 15,000 people die each year by overdosing on opioid pain relievers such as Oxycontin, a rate that has more than tripled since 1990. The government has tried numerous strategies to reduce the death toll, but those policies have not had a significant effect on death rates from overdoses. Community-based naloxone distribution and training programs have existed in the U.S. since 1996, and have provided the drug to over 50,000 people, leading to 10,000 successful overdose reversals.
The mayor of Bogota has recently proposed a pilot scheme with crack cocaine addicts to explore the substitution of crack made of cocaine base paste (or bazuco as it is called in Colombia) by marijuana. The substitution treatment plan will include 15 problematic users from the marginalized Bronx area who are already receiving health assistance of the CAMAD operating in that sector of the city. The treatment will last approximately eight months, after which the results will be evaluated.
Since the launch of the room, the quantity of drug paraphernalia collected from gutters, playgrounds, stairwells and doorways in the area has halved. Vesterbro also appears to be a place where the desperate are seemingly becoming a little less desperate. Burglaries in the wider area are down by about 3%, theft from vehicles and violence down about 5%, and possession of weapons also down. "From the police perspective, I can see the benefits," says Superintendent Henrik Orye. "It feels calmer."
The personal use of illegal drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine, should be decriminalized as part of a federal-provincial strategy to tackle drug abuse, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition argues. Their report, Getting To Tomorrow, denounces the Harper government’s aggressive war on drugs, which puts the emphasis on law enforcement while steering money away from harm-reduction initiatives like Vancouver’s supervised injection site. (See also: Call to legalize 'hard' drugs meets opposition)
The expert seminar “Innovative cocaine and poly drug abuse prevention programme”, organized by the Forum Droghe, took place in Florence, gathering over 30 people, mainly drug addiction professionals (clinicians or working in harm reduction programs); academics, researchers, NGO representatives. The seminar was introduced by a public presentation of the project, addressed to local and regional policy makers, Italian press and drug professionals from the whole region, in addition to foreign and Italian participants to the seminar. The general aim was to identify the main features of an innovative model of intervention, gathering suggestions from research on “controls” over drug use.
Building on a long history and culture of tolerance, the Dutch responded to illicit drugs with decades of pragmatic measures free of judgment. A central element of modern Dutch drug policy was a crucial decision to establish a legal and practical separation of cannabis—judged to pose "acceptable" risks to consumers and society—from hard drugs associated with unacceptable risk. This policy effectively decriminalized possession and use of cannabis and opened the door for tolerated outlets for small-scale cannabis sales that eventually took the form of the well-known Dutch "coffee shops."
This week both the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna and the UN General Assembly 3rd Committee in New York discuss new drug control resolutions related to upcoming reviews of global drug policy. The high-level CND review in March 2014 and the Special Session of the General Assembly (UNGASS) on drugs in 2016 provide opportunities to change course and to ensure drug policy fully respects human rights.