Decriminalising Drugs

Often times when the topic of decriminalisation of drugs come up, many debates are rooted in our own experiences and less so the detrimental effects that criminalisation has on marginalised communities, women, young people, farmers etc, not to mention that addiction is a real disorder and should be treated as such.

Yesterday on my Instagram story I asked people whether they believe in the decriminalisation of drugs and there were some interesting responses.

So for this #MindfulMonday, I put some of my thoughts together, not extensive but a simplified look into why decriminalising drugs is much more than just addiction or the drug trade, it is rooted in perpetuating poverty.

THE WAR ON DRUGS

The so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has failed in its 50 years and left millions of broken and lost lives in its wake through intentional division an criminalisation of communities. It has fuelled poverty, inequality, corruption and violence and the global supply of illicit drugs has still not decreased.

Marginalised communities, women and young people are the most affected.

  • Women engaged in small scale trade and small subsistence farming are incarcerated for low level offences
  • Unemployment and lack of opportunity for youth
  • Systematic injustice ensures cycle of poverty persists

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness.

National Institute of Drug Abuse

DRUG POLICY SHOULD BE ABOUT PUBLIC HEALTH NOT CRIME

The criminalisation of drugs prevents people from having access to pain medication that they need. Globally, 90% of AIDS patients and 50% of cancer patients live in low-and-middle income countries, yet only have access to 6% of the morphine used globally for pain relief. This shows that strict drug laws have grave consequences that undermine people’s fundamental right to health.

The War on Drugs holds people hostage to criminals and many countries hostage to neo-colonialism. Governments and policy makers have had a hand in creating and preserving poverty and powerlessness driving low-level engagement in the drugs trade, which means they also have the power to implement new drug policies that move us away from prohibition towards legal and regulated markets and other alternatives to create a more equal and just world. It wastes approximately $100 billion dollars which could be redirected into formulating policies and systems that ensure the safety of users and the rights of producers.

EXAMPLES

  • Bolivia: In 2009, the country’s coca control programme enabled registered growers to cultivate a subsistence amount of coca leaf for sale to the legal market.
  • Portugal: Decriminalised possession in 2001 and increased funding for drug services. This reduced drug-related deaths and new HIV infections among people who use drugs.
  • Tanzania: 1 of 5 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) with support for harm reduction in a national policy and provides needle and syringe exchange programmes and opioid substitution therapy. It is also 1 of 2 countries in SSA with reported availability of Naloxone.
  • Myanmar: Upper House of Parliament approved changes to national drug law to remove prison sentences for drug and instead promotes access to health services.

READ | WATCH | LISTEN

  • The Hardest Hit – Documentary by Philly McMahon

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