The Lancet is one of the oldest and best-known peer-reviewed medical journals. Occasionally they commission a group a scientists to prepare a detailed scientific analysis on a particular topic. In this case, they joined with John Hopkins and commissioned 22 experts to analyze Public Health and International Drug Policy, in advance of the United Nations special session (UNGASS) on drug policy next month.
The report is not an easy read at times – so much data and information — but it’s very thorough and it is a stinging scientific indictment of international drug policy. Check out part of the conclusion:
Policies meant to prohibit or greatly suppress drugs present an apparent paradox. They are portrayed by policy makers to be necessary to preserve public health and safety, and yet they directly and indirectly contribute to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice, and the undermining of peopleâ€™s right to health. The framers of international human rights law foresaw that there would be times, especially in the face of security threats, when some individual rights would have to be abrogated in favour of preserving collective safety and wellbeing. There is international consensus that if policies that abrogate rights are necessary for the greater good, those policies should pursue a legitimate and transparently defined goal and be proportionate to that goal, must be the least rights-restrictive and the least harmful possible to achieve the stated goal, should include adequate remedies for people whose rights are violated, and should not interfere with the democratic functioning of society.
In our view, policies pursuing drug prohibition or severe suppression do not meet these criteria, even if one accepts that drugs in and of themselves somehow present a serious security threat. Policies that pursue drug prohibition or heavy suppression do not represent the least harmful way to address drugs, the aim they pursue is not well defined or realistic, their interventions are not proportionate to the problem, they destabilize democratic societies, and people harmed by them often have no recourse to remedies to mitigate those harms. The scourge of drugs and the harms of drug use are exaggerated to justify these measures.