The five-decade long international “War on Drugs” started by US president Richard Nixon has harmed the public health and should be scrapped in favour of a process of decriminalisation, a major new report has concluded.
Anti-drug policies and laws have had “no measurable impact on supply or use” and cannot be justified on scientific or public health grounds, according to the authors of study commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Ivy League university and The Lancet.
The report presents “compelling evidence” that countries such as Portugal and the Czech Republic have decriminalised non-violent minor drug offences with positive results, including “public health benefits, cost savings, lower incarceration [rates] and no significant increase in problematic drug use”.
Urging action from countries such as the US and UK which still have highly strict drugs policies, the authors called on governments to consider “regulated markets” for cannabis like those in Uruguay and the US states of Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska.
Looking at evidence from around the world, the study found drug laws had been applied in a way that was “discriminatory against racial and ethnic minorities and women, and has undermined human rights”.
And it identified prison terms for minor drug offenders as the single “biggest contribution to higher rates of infection among drug users” with diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Cannabis around the world
Cannabis around the world
Farmers destroy cannabis plantations under Moroccan police supervision in the northern Moroccan Larache region, pictured here in 2006
Growing business: Cannabis on sale at River Rock Wellness
Oaksterdam in Oakland, California, is the world's only university dedicated to the study and cultivation of cannabis
Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images
A cannabis smoker marks the start of the new law by the Space Needle in Seattle
Cannabis growing wild in China, where it has been used to treat conditions such as gout and malaria
Uruguay has voted to make the country the first to legalize marijuana
A groundswell of support from the public led to full legalisation in Colorado
A man smokes licenced medicinal marijuana prior to participating in the annual Hemp Parade, or 'Hanfparade', in support of the legalization of marijuana in Germany on August 7, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. The consumption of cannabis in Germany is legal, though all other aspects, including growing, importing or selling it, are not. However, since the introduction of a new law in 2009, the sale and possession of marijuana for licenced medicinal use is legal.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The UK latest figures show 2.3 million people used cannabis in the last year
Tourists visiting Amsterdam will not be banned from using the city’s famous cannabis cafes
These 25 cannabis plants, seized in Merseyside police, could have generated a turnover of £40,000 a year
12/13 San Francisco
April 20, 2012: People smoke marijuana joints at 4:20 p.m. as thousands of marijuana advocates gathered at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. The event was held on April 20, a date corresponding with a numerical 4/20 code widely known within the cannabis subculture as a symbol for all things marijuana.
A cannabis users' association will pay the town of Rasquera more than €600,000 a year for the lease of the land
Dr Chris Beyrer, from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, said prohibition was the basis for many national drug laws - “policies based on ideas about drug use and dependence that are not scientifically grounded”.
“The global 'war on drugs' has harmed public health, human rights and development,” he said.
“It's time for us to rethink our approach to global drug policies, and put scientific evidence and public health at the heart of drug policy discussions.”Reuse content