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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Global Debate On Drug Policy

If you have been following our posts over the lasts six months, you are likely aware that United Nations (UN) is holding a special session this week to discuss global drug policy. It has been nearly 20 years since the UN has held such a meeting, but it could not have come sooner. In the United States we have an opioid addiction crisis of epidemic proportions, a scourge that we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of; while other countries may not share the same problem, the disease of addiction affects millions of people across the globe.

Setting alcohol and legal narcotics aside, the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime known as UNODC reports that 246 million people are using illicit drugs worldwide. In America, we are slowly but surely recognizing the urgent need for addiction and mental health treatment services, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle understand that a jail's bars are only a band-aid. Prison sentences should only be handed out to illegal drug manufacturers and traffickers, rather than non-violent drug offenders.

At the special session, world leaders have been discussing how they handle illegal drugs and what they think should be done moving forward. Canada has plans to legalize marijuana, while Cuba opposes legalizing drugs or declaring them harmless, the Associated Press reports. Both Iran and Indonesia impose the death penalty on drug traffickers. During the session Indonesia’s Ambassador, Rachmat Budiman, called for a “zero-tolerance approach” for the suppression and elimination of all illegal drugs.

Anyone with a basic understanding of addiction would probably agree that as long as there is a demand, there will always be individuals and organizations who will try to make a profit from supplying the demand. Treating addiction humanely and effectively is the best weapon against the worldwide illegal drug scourge. The Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli, said “law enforcement efforts should focus on criminal organizations — not on people with substance use disorders who need treatment and recovery support services.”

Iran claimed to have seized 620 tons of drugs last year and said that it is helping protect the world from "the evils of addiction," according to the article. Yes, that’s right, the evils of addiction! Addiction is a mental illness, and the use of such rhetoric is draconian to say the least. Drugs are in fact harmful to one’s health. People who profit off the exploitation of others sicknesses are wrong and should be a punishable offense. However, people suffering from addiction are not bad, they are sick and need help. As long as we talk about addiction as if it is something that we can eradicate, the longer it take to collectively come together to ensure that everyone has access to treatment and recovery.

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