In recent years of global debate on policies and strategies on controlled drugs, the European institutions (European Commission and Council, and the EMCDDA) and member states have broadly been a progressive and civilizing factor in pushing for balanced, evidence based and humane drug policies and programmes. However, just when the wider global debate is shifting in accordance with these principles, and there are real political opportunities to create more balanced, humane and effective drug policies, there are worrying signs that the European institutions are taking a wrong turn – the vision and leadership on this issue is notably absent, and some of the more recent positions taken seem to indicate a return to the simplistic messages and priorities of the failed policies of the past.
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.)
The backbone of the United Nations drug control system consists of three UN Drug Conventions. The prohibition of potentially harmful substances has its origin in the desire to protect human well-being. However, the way in which the global regime was set up decades ago and the escalation of repression it has brought about since, has been an historical mistake increasing rather than diminishing the problems. There is no point now in dreaming about how the world might have looked without it, or deluding ourselves that all the problems could be solved by scrapping the conventions. The challenge is to create the political space which would allow a reform process to move ahead. A process guided by pragmatism, open-mindedness and evaluation of practices on the basis of costs and benefits; providing leeway for experimentation and freedom to challenge the wisdom of the existing conventions.
Instead of relying on the border police, the EU should assess the effects of its own policies on the poor, migrant-sending countries. Unless the policies that perpetuate the conditions for poverty and injustice are changed, the reasons for migration will remain.
For more than ten years, TNI’s Drugs & Democracy programme has been studying the UN drug control conventions and the institutional architecture of the UN drug control regime. As we approach the 2016 UNGASS, this primer is a tool to better understand the role of these conventions, the scope and limits of their flexibility, the mandates they established for the CND, the INCB and the WHO, and the various options for treaty reform.
In contrast to other Central American countries, the possession of drugs for immediate personal use is not a criminal offence in Costa Rica. In August 2013 the cultivation, manufacture, transport and trafficking of drugs have all been made a criminal offence under the same article, which provides for a prison sentence of between 8 and 15 years without making any distinction between the offences. The government of Costa Rica supports the launch of an open international debate on the issue, but has declared itself against decriminalisation.
The countries of the Northern Triangle are experiencing much higher rates of violence and increasing Drug Trafficking Organization (DTOs) activity than Mexico which has occupied the limelight when it comes to media attention. To what extent is the drugs trade responsible for this violence?
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.
Despite the provisions in the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act (2002), laws remain in force which lead to the arrest and charges for offences under previous Acts (1975, 1976, 1979). Thus the policy that stipulates that people who use drugs or are dependent on drugs should be “treated as patients, not criminals” is contradicted by existing legal practices that establish criminal liability for mere consumption of drugs. However, the Thai government is now on the verge of adopting a national harm reduction policy to prevent HIV and other blood-borne virus transmission in the near future.