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Ad Hoc US Coalition for Global Drug Policy Reform
We, the undersigned US and international non-governmental organizations that wor ondrug policy issues in the United States, and supporting organizations from other countries, callfor a significant shift in global drug policy in line with international human rights standards,andthat prioritizes health, including access to medicines, security, and development.Existing US and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization ofdrug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rightsstandards and have contributed to serious human rights violations. The criminalization ofpersonal drug use and possession for personal use infringes on the right to privacy and basicprinciples of autonomy on which other rights rest.Criminalization of the drug trade has dramatically enhanced the profitability of illicitdrug mar ets, fueling the operations of groups that commit abuses, corrupt authorities, andundermine democracy and the rule of law in many parts of the world. And both in the US andinternationally, enforcement of drug laws has often involved large-scale abuses anddiscriminatory practices, including disproportionately harsh sentences for drug offenses in theUS (which have a disparate impact on African Americans than on whites), the use of the deathpenalty for drug offenses in several countries, and extrajudicial executions and enforceddisappearances in others. Existing drug policies have also caused other injuries to the public'swell-being, such as the proliferation of infectious diseases and the suppression of essential andpromising medicines.Concerned that drug prohibition may be incompatible, in practice if not in principle, withprinciples of human rights or public health, some countries – or jurisdictions within them – havebegun to pursue policies that depart from that model and to see alternative means for addressingthe health and human safety concerns associated with drug use.Following votes in several states within the United States to legalize or otherwiseregulate cannabis for non-medical use, the US State Department – as part of a "Four Pillars"approach enunciated by Ambassador William Brownfield – has called for flexibility andtolerance for countries to pursue innovative drug policies, including legal regulation.1Considering the serious human rights and health harms drug policy approaches focused oncriminalization have caused in the past decades, we believe that experimenting with new, lessharmful approaches, to drug policy is essential.Accommodating some of these experiments, including with legalization and regulation ofinternationally controlled substances, may require that the UN drug conventions are interpretedin light of countries' international human rights and other obligations. We believe that in case ofirreconcilable conflict, human rights principles, which lie at the core of the United Nations 1 William R. Brownfield, Trends in Global Drug Policy (US State Department 2014) (speech at UN Foreign Press Center, UN Plaza, New Yor ), http://fpc.state.gov/232813.htm.
charter, should ta e priority over provisions of the drug conventions. UN Member States shouldinitiate a process of reforming and modernization of the drug conventions.We also support the US Department of Justice's guidance of August 2013, in which itspecified conditions under which it would accommodate state-based systems of legal regulationfor cannabis, despite the continuing federal prohibition of cannabis.2 As then Deputy AttorneyGeneral James Cole laid out in testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee, this approachrepresents the government's most realistic strategy for pursuing federal priorities (which are alsotreaty priorities), in light of the small percentage of law enforcement agents in the US who areemployed by the federal government, and the constitutional restraints which prevent Congressfrom forcing states to enforce federal laws. Among the priorities listed in the guidance arepreventing violence and preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminalorganizations.To address the injustices and the harms that are currently associated with drug policy inmuch of the world, we call for an open dialogue on these matters, and for action on them, at theApril 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) and during upcomingsessions of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and related proceedings, including the conveningof a Committee of Experts to review the issue of treaty reform. Additionally, we call forsubstantive efforts to address the human rights abuses and other social problems resulting frommany jurisdictions' current drug policies, including but not limited to the following measures: • Essential medicines that contain or are made of controlled substances, the availability ofwhich is currently limited in much of the world, including opioids for pain management,should be made available and accessible to all patients with a legitimate medical need.The United Nations should wor with its member states to address the regulatory, legaland educational obstacles that have caused this scarcity and the resulting needlesssuffering. • Governments should ensure that drug control measures do not interfere with medical andscientific research involving controlled substances, as is currently the case in the UnitedStates with substances included in "Schedule I." • Given the growing body of evidence for the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treatingcertain medical conditions, states should review and, where necessary, amend regulationsor adjust scheduling in order to improve medical access and facilitate research intomedical uses. • Governments should repeal laws that criminalize personal use and possession per se ofdrugs having regard to their legal obligations under international human rights standards.Governments can criminalize negligent or dangerous behavior, such as driving under theinfluence, to regulate harmful conduct by individuals who use drugs, withoutcriminalizing drug use itself. Governments should also address the policies and other 2 James M. Cole, Memorandum for All United States Attorneys: Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement (Office of the Deputy Attorney General 2013), http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resource ... 857467.pdf.
factors that have driven disproportionate sentencing, over-incarceration anddiscriminatory policing. • The United Nations and its member states should ta e steps to reduce the costs of currentpolicies toward drug production and distribution, including overhauling policies such asaerial fumigation of drug crops, that may carry unnecessary ris s to health and theenvironment; exploring alternatives to current approaches that emphasize the use ofcriminal law enforcement to regulate the drug trade; and where appropriate, by adoptingnew legal and regulatory framewor s and adjusting enforcement practices. • The United Nations should wor with its member states to end the human rights abusesoccurring in drug enforcement, giving immediate priority to ending the death penalty fordrug offenses. • The United Nations and its member states should adopt drug policy evaluation metricsthat focus on health, security, development, access to medicine, and human rights, ratherthan simple or derivative measures li e use rates or quantities of drugs seized byauthorities – and wor to reallocate their budgets based on the evidence that such metricsreflect, for example by shifting some drug enforcement expenditures into public healthprograms or to other areas of law enforcement. • The United Nations should endorse the concept of harm reduction, including but notlimited to needle exchange programs, safe injection sites, medication assisted treatment(including opioid substitution or maintenance programs), and non-prosecution policiesfor persons see ing help for overdoses. – END –Global NGOsHuman Rights WatchLaw Enforcement Against ProhibitionNonviolent Radical Party transnational and transpartyStudents for Sensible Drug PolicyUS NGOsAmerican Civil Liberties UnionA New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing)Ber eley Patients Group (CA)BOOM!Health (NY)Chicago Recovery AllianceCincinnati Exchange Project (OH)Citizens Opposing ProhibitionCoalition for Cannabis Standards & Ethics (WA)Common Sense for Drug PolicyDenver Relief Consulting (CO)DC Cannabis CampaignDr. Bronner's Magic Soaps
Drug Policy AllianceDrug Policy Forum of HawaiiDrug Policy Forum of TexasDrug Truth NetworEmpire State NORML (NY)Family Law & Cannabis Alliance (MA)4Front AdvisorsGreenbridge Corporate Counsel (CA, WA)Harborside Health Center (CA)Harm Reduction Action Center (CO)Harm Reduction CoalitionHousing Wor sHuman Rights and the Drug WariComply CannabisInstitute for Policy Studies Drug Policy ProjectIntercambios Puerto RicoLegal Services for Prisoners with Children (CA)Marijuana Policy ProjectMoms United to End the War on DrugsNational Organization for the Reform of Marijuana LawsNew Yor Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE)Northwest Patient Resource Center (WA)Project InformProtect Families First (RI)St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction (NY)Sensible ColoradoStoptheDrugWar.orgThe ArcView GroupThe CHOW Project (HI)The Libra FoundationVeterans for Compassionate Care LLC (WA)Veterans for Medical Cannabis AccessVirginians Against Drug ViolenceOther National NGOsCanadian Drug Policy CoalitionCanadian Students for Sensible Drug PolicyHands Off Cain (Italy)Luca Coscioni Association for Freedom of Scientific Research (Italy) First published March 12, 2015, UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting, Vienna This statement is coordinated by StoptheDrugWar.org on behalf of the Ad Hoc US Coalition for GlobalDrug Policy Reform. For information or to endorse, please contact David Borden at email@example.com, +1 202-236-8620, fax +1 202-293-8344, P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016.
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