The admission by UN's lead agency for drugs, the UNODC, that “the drug market is thriving” in its 2017 World Drug Report is an important one given that it is months away from 2019 – the target date by which governments committed to “significantly reduce or eliminate” the global drug market. At the recent annual gathering of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, this abysmal failure to claim any progress towards these ‘drug-free’ targets was the backdrop to the latest round of tense negotiations on global drug control.
The recent publication of two single pieces of legislation - the amended 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law and the first National Drug Control Policy - is likely to form the basis of Myanmar’s drug policy for several years to come. What does it mean for the country’s transition towards an evidence-based approach to drug control, and how can the gaps between the two documents be addressed?
After decades of relative tolerance towards Cannabis in Spain, the Constitutional Court decides that cannabis clubs are criminal. Years of government criminalizing strategy pay off. The national parliamentary debate can no longer be postponed.
Between 10 and 25 June 2017, the Transnational Institute organised a Southeast Asian advocacy fellowship programme on drug policy reform, attended by seven participants from Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar. One of the participants, Viona Wijaya from Indonesia, shares her experiences in this article.
Myanmar is better known for its serious drug problems - including large-scale illicit drugs production and trafficking and high rates of heroin use - than for implementing progressive drug policies that prioritise the health of its population. However, this could change in the near future.
We are calling for applications from those working in sectors related to drug policy in order to increase their understanding of international drug policy reform issues, to improve their advocacy skills, and to enhance their capacity in working with the media on drug policy.
The Czech drug-related legislation is quite extensive and includes laws as well as various by-laws. The most important feature of the Czech legislative system is that criminal law does not consider drug use to be a criminal offence. The new Czech Criminal Code introduced a brand-new significant feature into the Czech legal system – the differentiation between cannabis and other narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
Following the dramatic executions of drug traffickers in April 2015, the Indonesian government decided to step up its anti-narcotics efforts, reinforcing public condemnation of drugs while slashing activists' hopes for progressive reforms.
Drug law reform continues developing in the right direction in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. In Jamaica, for example, a law legalizing the cultivation and consumption of ganja for medicinal, religious and research purposes came into force, as well as the decriminalisation of possession for personal use. Jamaica also spoke out at the UN Thematic Debate in New York. On May 7th, the minister addressed the UN High Level Thematic Debate on international drug policy, highlighting Jamaica’s perspectives on drug control policies and participating in a debate that encourages open and inclusive discussions. Amongst the outcomes Jamaica would like to see from UNGASS is “the establishment of an Expert Advisory Group to review the UN drug policy control architecture, its system-wide coherence, its treaty inconsistencies and its legal tension with cannabis regulations.”
The Central American region connecting North and South America has traditionally been an area with intensive trafficking routes, of drugs, weapons and people. Drugs trafficking routes over land and sea have existed for decades, transporting mainly cocaine from the Andean region to the United States and Mexico.
Ecuador has entered a new era in drug policy and legislation. Twenty-five years after the last major legal reform, brought about by the famed Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Law (Ley de Sustancias Estupefacientes y Psicotrópicas, Law 108), which took effect on September 17, 1990, the National Assembly is about to debate—for the second and final time—the draft Law on Prevention of Drugs and Use or Consumption of Substances Classified as Subject to Oversight (Ley de Prevención de Drogas y Uso y Consumo de Sustancias Catalogadas Sujetas a Fiscalización.)
An article published recently in El Espectador commented on the two issues that underpin the Colombian discourse on the subject of drugs. To be precise, the government’s discourse is far from reflecting what goes on in practice, or the actions that are still being carried out in the country. Colombia is seen as the star pupil in complying with the United Nations drug treaties and it continues to do things that many other countries would avoid.
With the 2016 UNGASS on drugs in one year, it is time to recognize the policy landscape is shifting while tensions within the UN drug control system continue to grow. A slowly increasing number of governments is expressing their frustrations with the current international drug control framework, particularly Mexico and Colombia, countries that are suffering from violence related to drug markets, are calling for reflection and analysis in order to consider new options, some of which include regulatory measures.
Campaigners for a more evidence-based drug policy are horrified. "It’s a classic and appalling example of gutter politics,” says Martin Jelsma, Director of the drugs policy programme of the Transnational Institute. “Accusing the Lib Dems of being ‘soft on drugs and thugs’ is a cheap populist slogan that tries to hide the Labour Party's own co-responsibility for destroying the future of thousands of people by giving them a criminal record for no good reason at all."