Solutions to Drug Policy Crisis Within Reach

Da: “Senlis Council” – Press release, 2nd November 2004
But Only With Reform of International System
“The choice is clear. If you want to look after public health, respect human rights and promote humanitarian values, social inclusion and harmony, then a rational health-based approach is the way to go.” Dr Massimo Barra, Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Drug policy is in a crisis and the way forward is through the implementation of innovative, health-based or regulatory policies, said speakers on Tuesday, November 2 at a Major Workshop organized by The Senlis Council, an international drug policy think tank.

The workshop was part of the 47th International Conference organized by the International Council on Alcohol and Addiction (ICAA), entitled “Visions for the Future: Empowerment – Integration – Interaction,” which has been taking place in Venice since the 31st of October and will continue until the 5th of November.

Mr Raymond Kendall, the Honorary Secretary of Interpol, emphasized the lack of results achieved after years of law enforcement efforts put into drug related criminality and other problems associated with the use of drugs. “It is obvious that the current approach to the drug problem does not lead to the desired result of a decrease in supply and use. The repressive approach is simply not the right way to solve the drug problem.”

Mr Philip Owen, former Mayor of Vancouver, Canada, who’s city was responsible for the first ‘safe injection site’ in North America, explained how the lack of success with conventional law enforcement tactics against the drug problem forced him to look for alternative solutions. “Because it’s pretty obvious you can’t incarcerate your way out of the drug problem. You can’t liberalize your way out of it and just give anybody the drugs they want. You can’t ignore it. So you manage it.” The safe injection site in Vancouver has prove very successful, with overdoses down from 147 per year before it’s opening, to just 52 one year later, and public opinion strongly backing the project.

Dr Barra, Vice-President of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, announced that the International Federation of the Red Cross is determined to be at the forefront of international health-based drug policy. “The fact that victims of illicit drug use are criminalized as well as stigmatized by the society as a whole is a true failure of our time”.

In a landmark report published in 2003 on harm reductions related to injection drug use, the Red Cross ensures that a wide range of prevention programmes, including access to sterile injection equipment and harm reduction efforts related to drug use are implemented throughout the world.

Mr Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of The Senlis Council, had openned the workshop by declaring that “there is very little link between law enforcement policies and diminishing the consumption of illicit substances.”

“In regard to the global drug policy crisis, the facts are clear: everywhere across Europe but also North America we observe the increase in consumption of psychoactive substances on a massive scale. From Europe to the poppy fields of Afghanistan, to the failed military policies in Colombia, we are facing a major political, health, social and economic crises.”

Professor Robin Room, from the Social Centre for Research on Alcohol and Drugs at Stockholm University, said that “we need to rethink types of drug control in terms of the whole range of psychoactive substances in an international perspective”.

Mr Reinert emphasized the importance of the international drug policy control framework. “The problem with innovative health policies, is that they do not translate at the level of the international framework on drugs. Repetitive efforts to simplify and orientate the framework toward change have regularly faced an ideological wall.

“In 2008, when the United Nations will review its 10-year goal of a drug free world, the drug policy community will have the opportunity to transform a problem into a solution: to move away from a situation out of control and based on fear and ideology, towards a new consensus to control the drug crisis and address important problems like mass consumption of psychoactive substances, HIV/AIDS transmission, the illegal economy and organized crime”.

“It will be a moment for us to seize, to set the records and move towards a new global consensus on international drug policy away from the US led War on Drugs.”