Drug Policy Reform in Practice

Experiences with alternatives in Europe and the US
Nueva Sociedad No 222
July-August 2009

ns222eThe academic journal Nueva Sociedad recently released an issue to promote the debate in Latin America on drug policy reform. TNI contributed with the article Drug policy reform in practice: Experiences with alternatives in Europe and the US. The article aims to give inputs for the Latin American debate providing an overview of European drug policy practices regarding harm reduction, decriminalization of consumption and possession, and more tolerant policies towards cannabis, particularly in The Netherlands and several states in the US.

Originally, the debate was opened by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, convened by former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico. In February 2009, the Commission issued a report evaluating the impact of the “war on drugs” policies, framing recommendations for safer, more efficient, humane policies.

The report proposed a paradigm shift in strategy concerning the Latin American drug problem; a critical review of deficiencies in the prohibitionist strategy adopted by the Unites States; and an assessment of harm reduction achieved in the European Union. In its article, TNI tries to show that the discussion about drug policy is often hampered by polarized positions of a war on drugs versus legalization. This dichotomy obscures the fact that much experience has been gained regarding less repressive approaches, offering a broad panorama of guiding principles and lessons learned.

The UN drug control conventions have handicapped the search for policy improvements and are plagued with inconsistencies. TNI proposes some urgent revisions of the UN drug control policies and necessary changes in the conventions where they block policy improvements.

A shortened Spanish version of this article was published under the title La reforma de las políticas de drogas, Experiencias alternativas en Europa y Estados Unidos, in Nueva Sociedad No 222, July-August 2009.