Is the UN about to recommend decriminalisation of all drugs?
来源：未知 作者：雍割 时间：2017-08-19 03:01:11
By Rachel David The war on drugs has taken an interesting turn. In a blog post published on Monday, businessman Richard Branson said that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was planning to release a statement at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Malaysia recommending that governments decriminalise all illegal drugs. A long-time advocate of changing drug policies, Branson wrote that he “could not be more delighted” with this apparent development. The UNODC has since published a statement saying that the briefing paper mentioned by Branson isn’t a final or formal document and that there has been an “unfortunate misunderstanding” regarding the intention of the document. It does, however, state that a document is under review. So, if such a recommendation were to be released in the future, governments across the globe would need to decide whether to follow Portugal’s example. The country “de-penalised” the use of all drugs in 2001. David Nutt, chair of the UK’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs and former UK government advisor, says that he would fully support such a move from the UNODC. “For recreational drug users criminalisation will do more harm than the drugs they use, and for addicts they need to be treated for the illness they suffer, not persecuted,” he says. Alex Stevens, professor of criminal justice at the University of Kent, UK, also supports such a potential move. He notes the many drawbacks of criminalisation, including discouraging “people who need treatment for drug dependence from seeking it”. Governments are already considering the question. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in Ireland, which met last week to discuss changes in drug policy following a recent visit to the Portuguese capital Lisbon, is expected to recommend to the Irish government the decriminalisation of the possession of small amounts of drugs, according to the Irish Independent newspaper. Many other countries have already introduced more relaxed laws, says Caitlin Hughes at the National Drug and Alcohol research Centre in Australia. These include Armenia, Belgium, Chile, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Mexico. One of the main arguments against decriminalisation is that it will normalise drug use, encouraging more people to consider taking them. Looking at Portugal – where those caught in possession of drugs are given an administrative punishment, like community service or a fine, or medical treatment if they are addicted – offers an opportunity to test this claim. An analysis of the effects of Portugal’s drug policy found that, although there were small reported increases in the use of soft drugs such as cannabis among adults, the use of what is known as “problematic drugs”, in particular injectable ones like heroin, actually decreased. An analysis from the 1970s in the US came to a similar conclusion, finding that decriminalisation of cannabis led to fewer hospitalisations related to other drugs. Portugal also has one of the lowest levels of drug use in Europe according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, as well as one of the lowest rates of drug-induced deaths among adults in Europe – 3 deaths per million in 2012 compared with the European average of 17.2 deaths per million. “Decriminalisation does not generally lead to increases in drug use or related harms,” says Stevens. “Despite politicians’ claims, the evidence suggests that young people do not take their cues from the legal status of drugs when deciding whether to use them.” Nutt agrees: “The Portuguese and other models show us the decriminalisation approach reduces costs and harms and saves lives.” Decriminalisation may also allow the police to focus on more serious crimes, says Stevens. He points to a trial in parts of London in 2001 when people found with small amounts of cannabis were let off with a warning. Stevens says this approach freed up police to commit resources to other forms of crime – that subsequently fell. But could it ever happen, politically? The key thing is that such a policy statement by the UNODC would lend the authority of the agency to the decriminalisation of drug use, says Hughes. “The biggest challenge in reform remains politics and public perception and this is where the public support for decriminalisation of illicit drug use and possession from the UNODC could lead to significant additional reform and improvement in public health,” she says. Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty More on these topics: