Organization of American States launches groundbreaking drug policy report exploring alternatives to the war on drugs
On Friday, 17 May, in Bogotá, Colombia, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza will present Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos with the groundbreaking outcomes of a high level drug policy review. Mandated by 34 heads of state – including the US - at the 2012 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, this report marks the first time in history that a high level multilateral agency has given serious consideration to the failings of current policies and potential alternative approaches, including decriminalisation and legal regulation.
Lisa Sanchez, coordinator of the Latin American Programme for Transform Drug Policy Foundation and México Unido Contra Delincuencia, and also a expert member of the OAS scenario planning team, speaking in Bogotá, Colombia, said:
“We welcome the reports from this ground-breaking high level initiative. Drug policy reform has been a taboo issue for decades - but for the first time representatives from 34 countries across the Americas have had the courage to break that taboo and envision real alternatives to the war on drugs. It is a clear acknowledgement that the global prohibition has failed to deliver what was promised and that a range of alternatives should be meaningfully explored.”
“The heads of State across the hemisphere who initiated the project can be proud of the fact that it has produced a set of four plausible scenarios, including one for the legal regulation of cannabis and other drugs - including the necessary reform of international law. And that, far from than being a disaster - the regulation scenario foresees a shift to legal regulation capable of producing positive outcomes.”
This report provides a groundbreaking visualization of alternatives to the existing regime – in the form of four scenarios of how drug policy and law could develop between now and 2025. These scenarios significantly include one involving the emergence of legally regulated markets for some currently prohibited drugs and explores how the international drug control system evolves to incorporate these developments.
Steve Rolles, Transform Senior Policy Analyst said:
“The reform scenario explored in the OAS report is already unfolding in reality, as Washington and Colorado move to tax and regulate cannabis for non-medical use, with Uruguay likely to follow suit later this year. This OAS project sets the scene for a vibrant high level debate on alternative approaches in the run up to the UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016 - where the reports will feed into the global debate on policy reform. It will rightly be seen as a watershed moment for the doomed global war on drugs.”
“We are urging governments in the region - and beyond - to take the opportunity created by these reports to initiate national dialogues on their central theme: alternatives to the war on drugs that can deliver the safer and healthier communities we all seek.”
Notes to editors:
· Lisa Sánchez: 00 52 (1) 553 2007 029 (in Bogotá, Colombia from 14 to 19 May. In Mexico City from 20 to 24 May)
· Steve Rolles: +44 (0)7980 213 943 London UK
The OAS reports will feed into a number of political processes in coming weeks and years:
- May 20-22: in Washington, the OAS report will be presented and discussed at the 53rd Regular Session of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD).
- June 4 – 6: The OAS will hold its next General Assembly in Antigua, Guatemala. Drug policy will be the main item on the agenda. See also the civil society declaration to inform the General Assembly, which included mention of legal, regulated markets for cannabis.
- March 2014: The UN Commission on Narcotic drugs meets in Vienna for its annual gathering including the 5 year half way review of the current 10 year drug strategy (very much rooted in the status quo that the OAS report is critiquing).
- 2016: The United Nations General Assembly has convened a special session on drugs in 2016, at the behest of the same Latin countries that instigated the OAS drug review process. The OAS reports will doubtless be a major shaping influence on the UNGASS preparations and discussions.
The heads of states of the Americas, gathered in April 2012 at the Sixth Summit in Cartagena, Colombia, chaired by President Santos, entrusted the OAS (Organization of American States) with the task of preparing materials for a hemispheric debate about the disappointing results and unintended negative consequences of current drug policies in the Americas and to explore new approaches for responding more effectively to the problem
For terms of reference see here: