The global War on Drugs has failed. It was launched 50 years ago, with the 1961 UN Single Convention on Drugs. This was expected to eliminate the production, supply and use of drugs, and so bring about a drug-free world. Yet, 50 years later, the use of drugs continues to rise, criminal cartels enjoy unprecedented profits, drugs-police and agencies consume unquantifiable amounts of taxpayers’ money, 10 million people are in prisons worldwide for drugs offences, civil liberties are abused, and tens of thousands die in the drug war every year. The drug-free world, so confidently predicted by supporters of the 1961 Convention with its criminalizing approach, is further than ever from realization, and has had many unintended and disastrous side effects.
Countries who have experimented with more liberal drugs policies, such as Portugal, have not experienced the boom in drug-use that critics predicted. Instead, they have seen significant reductions in drug-related crime, addiction and deaths, and due to the redistribution of resources away from criminalising users, are able to focus on healthcare, education and dismantling criminal empires. We must encourage our governments to experiment with progressive, cost-effective, health-oriented drugs policies that respect human rights.