A statement by the WFAD on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
Written by Mr. Robert DuPont. 

Although the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic are dominating our lives, let us not forget the equally deadly pandemic that continues to rage across the globe: drug abuse. This modern scourge, started in the late 1960’s, continues to enslave and kill people of all nations in ever-changing ways. In Sweden, one of the first places the drug use pandemic hit, psychiatrist and professor Nils Bejerot worked with the Stockholm police to fight the rising tide of methamphetamine and heroin use. Dr. Bejerot saw that the government’s initial response of providing users with physician-prescribed opioids and stimulants was futile. Not only did this policy fail to reduce drug use, but many of those drugs were diverted by users and ended up being sold on the street, leading to increased levels of drug use overall. Based on his first-hand experience with hundreds of patients, Dr. Bejerot concluded that providing addicts with drugs only prolonged their addiction and encouraged the spread of drug use throughout Swedish society. He saw that the only way to free users from the grip of addiction was to insist that they remain abstinent from all drugs. The world owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Bejerot. Thanks to the instrumentality of his efforts over 50 years ago, Sweden’s commitment to abstinence-based drug use prevention and treatment was born.

With such a history it comes as no surprise that in 2009 the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) was established in Stockholm to create a better drug policy vision for the world by building on the Swedish experience. This was a vision in stark contrast to the increasingly dominant view that the most appropriate public health response to addiction was “harm reduction.â€? That strategy sought to reduce some of the harm produced by addictive drug use while permitting and even sometimes encouraging continued drug use. 

WFAD is not opposed to harm reduction programs as a part of the response to the modern drug epidemic--as part of a continuum of care ending in treatment. However, WFAD insists that these programs be evaluated on the basis of their ability to help addicts become drug free. That means seeing harm reduction as a step toward eventual abstinence. Although facilitating drug use among addicts is better than allowing them to die from overdose, such use is not in their own long-term interest as it carries many serious risks to physical and mental health. Harm reduction without eventual recovery “enablesâ€? continued drug use and addiction. That is not in the interest of addicted people or the societies in which they live.    

WFAD supports the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for people suffering from opioid use disorders. When medications such as buprenorphine and methadone are used as prescribed and there is no other recreational or illicit use of substances, MAT patients are considered to be drug-free. 
The UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child, the only UN treaty to focus on youth drug use, calls on all nations to help protect children from drugs.  WFAD has the same clear goal for youth prevention as the ideal outlined in the treaty: that children be able grow up drug-free. For youth, there is no safe or healthy recreational use of drugs, including alcohol, nicotine or marijuana. This drug-free, no-use, goal is based on the recognition of the unique vulnerability of the developing adolescent brain to drug addiction. 

WFAD celebrates and supports the growing Recovery Movement worldwide. The recent emergence of millions of people who have overcome their own drug addiction not only inspires a world confronted by epidemic levels of deadly drug use, but it also reinforces the notion that true recovery is drug-free. People in recovery are the pathfinders for modern drug policy; this large and rapidly growing population offers hope to all addicted people.

WFAD is a world leader in promoting drug-free solutions for health and well-being.  Composed of a diverse global array of organizations and individuals working together to combat drug addiction, WFAD is the antidote to the modern drug epidemic.    
Youth Drug Use Prevention is the Top Public Health Priority

Prevention must be the foundation of the world’s response to the menacing spread of drug addiction. The growing costs of drug use are staggering. The difficulty of stopping drug use by those already addicted to drugs is unmistakable. Virtually all adults with substance use disorders began using substances before age 18, and it is well-known that the earlier the initiation to use and the heavier that use, the more likely an individual will suffer problems related to substance use later in life. Initiating problematic substance use in adulthood is far less common. In the context of youth drug use, this includes drugs that are legal for adults in most parts of the world, including alcohol and nicotine, and sometimes marijuana, as well as the purely illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and the new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Across the world, most youth do not use any substances. The imperative public health goal today worldwide is to increase the percentage of children and young adults who make the choice for health not to use any drugs. Achieving this goal will shrink the number of young people who develop substance use disorders in adulthood. While adult substance use can be controversial, youth substance use is universally seen as unhealthy and unwise.

Modern brain science has shown the unique vulnerability of the developing brain to addictive drugs as well as the great risk of youth substance use progressing to addiction. Research shows that often for youth, decisions about substance use are not drug-specific. Once a young person has used any substance, there is a significantly increased risk of that young person using other substances. The critical health decision for every young person is whether to use or not to use any substances. Those who choose to use substances go on to face a thousand additional decisions, day in and day out, about which drugs to use, when and how much to use. Those who choose not to use any substances have no such decisions with which to struggle. Youth prevention must therefore focus on that core decision, understanding that across the world different drugs are more common than others.
The world must unite in promoting a clear health standard for the health of our youth: no use of substances including alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and other illicit drugs. This is analogous to other clear health standards like wearing seat belts in vehicles, healthy eating habits and daily exercise. Some youth do use drugs. This same health standard applies to them: encourage and support them in stopping their substance use. To normalize youth drug use is to put youth at risk of the many harms that result from drug use in both youth and adulthood. To de-normalize youth drug use is to protect the health of youth and to reduce the problems of adult drug use.

This health standard of no use for youth is central to Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the only UN convention that specifically addresses youth drug use. It states, “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances.�

Embracing CRC Article 33, and the science of the uniquely vulnerable developing adolescent brain, nations from across the world must unite around the health standard of no use for young people and work directly with youth to greatly increase that number who choose to not use any substances.

Written by Robert DuPont, Board Member representing North America. 

MARCH 13, 2016

Topic: Cannabis

WFAD is alarmed by the current development of legalization of drugs in some areas of the world. This is being done in opposition to the Single convention on Narcotic Drugs from 1961 and is threatening the international cooperation in combatting the world drug problem.

We are also noting with great concern the movement for medical marijuana claiming that marijuana is a safe medicine. These claims conflict with current science and also with best practices of medicine. WFAD is also noting that states with medical marijuana dispensaries in the USA has a higher marijuana use by adolescents and lower perceptions of risk from use.

Reminding the state parties about the Health and Social effects of nonmedical use of drugs as described by the World Health Organization;

  • Cannabis is the most widely used drug, it is estimated that 181,8 million people used it in 2013;
  • Young people often use cannabis, with the mid-teens being the age of first use in many developed countries;
  • Growing evidence reveals that regular, heavy cannabis use during adolescence is associ- ated with more severe and persistent negative outcomes than use during adulthood.
  • Regular cannabis use can develop dependence on the drugs. The risk may be around
  • 1 in 10 among those who ever use cannabis, I in 6 among adolescent users and 1 in 3 among daily users;
  • There has been an upward trend in the THC content of confiscated cannabis in the USA and some European countries, but there is not enough knowledge on whether cannabis products with higher THC content affect the adverse health effects of cannabis;
  • There is a consistent dose-response relationship between cannabis use in adolescence and the risk of developing psychotic symptoms or schizophrenia.

WFAD calls on member states to secure that the use of components of the cannabis plant for medical use is done according to national legislative and regulatory frameworks on approval of new medicines.

We also request member states to ensure conformity with the three International Drug Conventions and reiterate the commitment to the conventions, also in connection with the debate around cannabis legal status. The use of cannabis for non-medical purposes is not a solution to the existing challenges.

WFAD reminds member states implement the obligations from the three Drug Conventions and the Action Plan on Drugs to implement effective prevention, treatment and rehabilitation measures, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires the states to protect children from illcit drug use. Legalization is clearly not allowed under the Conventions. Countries should not be able to legalize without consequences if our Conventions are to have meaning and credibility.

We also remind the state parties about the consequences that this current trend of legalizing drugs will have on less developed countries. Rich countries are failing to find resources to meet to address their drug

problem and care for their children and their poor, how can we expect that less developed countries will find the resources. The world’s poorest communities are the most vulnerable to the harms of drug use and trade, they will not be able to regulate the marketing or collect taxes from drug sales, simply because there are no taxes to collect.

We want to emphasize prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery is the way forward. To deny the addictive potential of cannabis or negative mental health effects is to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence available today. And our experience tells us that we should not welcome with open arms a new industry – like Big Tobacco – which will focus on commercializing and increasing the use of a drug far more potent today than it has ever been.

We need to prevent drug use, not promote it.

About WFAD

The World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) is dedicated to identifying and promoting effective and affordable laws, policies and programs consistent with modern culture and values that limit illegal drug use and illegal drug trafficking. These initiatives build on a century of international efforts to limit the use of illegal drugs, incorporated into three major treaties accepted by virtually every country in the world and managed by the United Nations. The treaties require coordinated international efforts that reject the use of drugs outside of controlled medical practice.

WFAD is the unified voice for civil society organizations working for a drug free vision.

Drug Policy Futures, in cooperation with World Federation Against Drugs and European Cities for Drug Free Societies, released the Drug Policy Report on November 5 at the Centros de Integración Juvenil's 17th International Congress on Addiction in Mexico City.

Drug Policy Futures is a global network for a new drug policy debate based on health.
We believe in an open dialogue on the strengths and weaknesses of global drug policies. We advocate for evidence-based strategies to promote public health, safety and the wellbeing of society, including those addicted to drugs and their families.

In 2014, Drug Policy Futures published the Ten Points Declaration outlining the principles that should guide drug policy. Today in November 5 2015, we are developing these principles in a report that provides practical examples of what is being done to counter the drugs problem in various part of the world.

This report combines theoretical arguments on drug policy with practical hands-on perspectives from the grassroots level on how drug control should be implemented in practice. The report covers many dimensions of the drug problem providing ample evidence on a variety of successful drug policies which fit under the umbrella of the existing UN drug conventions. 

As the world prepares for UNGASS, we need to move beyond simplistic calls for legalization of drugs and policies that emulate the public health disaster of tobacco and alcohol. We also should avoid inaction or turning a blind eye to the problems that drug control inadvertently has produced. 

It is our belief that:
- Contemporary drug control should address harms caused by drugs as well as the drug trade.
- Contemporary drug control should have prevention of drug use as its primary aim.
- Contemporary drug control should rest upon available research and evidence-based policies that protect the health and safety of drug-users, their families, and the wider community.

29 authors have contributed to this report. They are a mix of representatives from NGO´s, scholars and practitioners from all over the world.

The report is availbale for downloading at Drug Policy Futre's website. 


A study on the impact of the world drug poblem on the enjoyment of human rights was produced for the 30th Sesson of the Human Rights Council, Please read the recommendation from ECAD and WFAD regarding this study below. 


The document A/HRC/30/65 issued by the OHCHR overlooks several matters that are relevant in a discussion addressing the consequences of the world drug problem, including i.a. in the health, social, human rights, economic, justice and security fields. Here are some examples:

1. Vulnerable groups: Article 3 in The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) obliges States to give priority to children's rights in all forms of policy making. The reason is obvious; Children is prima facie the most vulnerable group of the population. CRC Article 33, obliges all states parties to protect all children from any illicit drug use, as well as from involvement in illicit production or trafficking. This is the only provision regarding drugs in any core human rights instrument, and hence should be an unmissable starting point for any investigation on enjoyment of human rights in context of illicit drug use.

The problem with Report 30/65:
Vaguely defined and non-legislated concepts such as harm reduction, and concerns on behalf of adult recreational drug users are treated as a priority in the Report. The Report is avoiding talking about rights of non-drug using children and adults as well as prevention. When in the end the Report makes reference to CRC Article 33 it is done in such a way that it is ignoring the main message of the Article (children shall be protected from any drug use), and the principles of child protection (starting with prevention and an enabling environment, as per UNICEF’s Child Protection Strategy 2008). The Report’s Paragraphs 55-57 refer only to children who are taking drugs and children in contact with the justice system. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has for over 20 years not issued a thematic report on the issue of Article 33/drugs. The present Report had an important contribution to make, but refrains from doing so. The Committee on the Rights of the Child have mentioned “harm reduction� in non-policy making country reports. This has been done with no definition of what ‘harm reduction’ is. The present Report is co-opting the Committee and other bodies to a definition of harm reduction that is including that “recreational drug use shall not be discouraged� (Report Para. 11). It is highly unlikely that this will be the eventual position of the Committee, as this explicitly goes against the spirit of CRC Article 33.

2. The document focuses exclusively on the human rights of the drug users and of the persons affected by drug addiction. Given the complex nature of the world drug problems and the multitude of its ramifications, a human rights study have also to address the rights of people who are not illicit drug users, but affected by other people’s drug use. By existing human rights law it can be noted that recreational drug users enjoys the same rights and obligations as other citizens. A legal transgression does not create extra rights, or a protected position. 

The problem with Report 30/65: The systematic exclusion of consideration of how nondrug using population is affected is discriminatory.

3. The only area where the rights of the population that do not use drugs is addressed is in relation to the access to essential medicines. However, in relation to the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposed the study refers only to restrictive drug control regulations and practices that constitute barriers to accessing essential controlled medicines. The International Narcotics Control Board have repeatedly indicated that the situation needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner and can be substantially improved through States parties action to address the regulatory, attitudinal, knowledge-related, economic and procurement-related problems.

The problem with Report 30/65: The present Report is too shallow. Human Rights Commissioner need to consult INCB on the issue of essential medicines before finalizing the Report.

4. In relation to the right to health, the OHCHR´s study does not analyze the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights general comment No. 14 (2000) observation that considers as a “violation of the obligation to protectâ€? follows from the failure of a State to “discourage production, marketing and consumption of …narcotics and other harmful substancesâ€? and other paragraphs referring to illicit drugs. Such an obligation must be analyzed in the context of the definition used in the OHCHR study for the concept of “harm reductionâ€?. Given the controversy arising from the utilization of this term a recommendation on the terminology clarification is welcomed.

The problem with Report 30/65: The Report is not legally systematic on the issue of right to health. With regard to the importance of this issue we hereby petition that the Report will be sent back to the High Commissioner for a review that is based on a systematic and transparent addressing of how the minimum standards set out in core human rights law are met, rather than a piece of activism to undermine the Drug Control system explicitly
endorsed by Article 33.

Stockholm, 2015-09-24

Erik Leijonmarck
Secretary General
European Cities Action Network for Drug Free Societies, ECAD

Linda Nilsson
Secretary General
World Federation Against Drugs, WFAD




CONCERNED about the aggressive efforts by some persons and organizations to ensure that countries in the West Africa sub-region alter their laws and policies to legalize some substances classified as illicit under international laws,

ALARMED at the likely impact on the West Africa sub-region of the legalization of illicit substances (particularly marijuana)

WORRIED about the implications on the rights and welfare of children, particularly the right to a meaningful existence and protection from harm) and overall Public Health of the legalization of addictive substances presently classified as illicit under international and domestic laws;

CONSCIOUS of the contiguous nature of countries in the West Africa sub-region and the fact that what affects one country eventually affects all in a very short time frame;

REALIZING that the lack of a committed Civil Society (CSO) and informed stakeholders response to the aggressive efforts to legalization of illicit substances might have sent the wrong impression that the West African sub-region and its peoples desired such affronts to commonsense;

ENCOURAGED by the convocation of the United Nations General Assembly on the Worlds Drug Problems (UNGASS - 2016) as a veritable means to announce to the world at large the views of the peoples of West Africa regarding Substance abuse laws, policies and programs; and

DESIROUS of ensuring that the voice of the peoples of the West Africa sub-region are heard at the global arena regarding issues of Substance abuse;

The participants at the 1st West Africa Forum on Drugs now resolve as follows: 

  1. In view of the weak economic situations of most countries in the West Africa sub-region, Drug Abuse Prevention strategies and programs, which have been proven to be cost effective, should take prominence over all others in addressing the Substance abuse scourge.
  1. Taking cognizance of the need to prioritize concern for Public Health and the Right and Welfare of Children in all matters, Substance abuse laws, policies and programs in the West Africa sub-region-rights should ensure that the interest of children and public health are held paramount.
  1. Targeted sensitization programs should be undertaken to enlighten and equip key stakeholders in addressing the Substance abuse situation, particularly Legislators, Policy formulators and administrators and CSO’s, with information that will enhance their efficacy and understanding of the dire cost on society of Substance abuse.
  1. There is need to actively and effectively seek the cooperation and integration of Religious and Community/Traditional organizations in ensuring success in activities geared towards curbing the adverse impact of Substance abuse on society.
  1. Substance abuse education should be effectively incorporated into the curricular of all academic institutions in the sub-region with a view to infusing into the Children and youth relevant prevention skills to avoid abusing substances.
  1. As is the case with tobacco products and alcohol, legalization of addictive products makes such products easily available to a population, and despite whatsoever safeguard measures put in place to prevent access of Children and Youths to such products, Children and Youths eventually, to their own and society’s detriment, find a way to access such products. 
  1. That addiction to substances should be recognized and addressed as a mental health infirmity and not strictly a crime-based issue.
  1. There is need to strengthen the manpower and infrastructure available across the West Africa sub-region for the treatment, care and rehabilitation of substance abuse related ailments.
  1. Taking into consideration the poor state of public health infrastructure and manpower, and the fact that basic/primary health care needs already overwhelm the health care system in the sub-region, the Legalization of some substances (presently categorized as illicit under international laws) will be most injurious to the already weakened public health care environment in the sub-region.
  1. The Governments and peoples of the West Africa sub-region should resist efforts being championed from forces external to the sub-region, to legalize some substances of abuse, particularly marijuana.  
  1. That following from this Forum, efforts should be increased, via the convocation of group specific summits, for instance, Youth Summit, Traditional Rulers Summit, Health Workers Summit, Legislators Summit, and so on, focused on galvanizing a unified response and approach to the sub-region wide Substance abuse scourge facing West Africa. 

10th July 2015
Lagos, Nigeria
Forum Secretariat
1st West Africa Forum on Drugs

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World Federation Against Drugs recognizes that the fundamental goal of drug policy is to reduce the nonmedical use of drugs of abuse because nonmedical use of these drugs is harmful, and often fatal, to drug users and for society as a whole. Sound drug policies must be affordable, practical and consistent with contemporary values. The legalization of currently illegal drugs for nonmedical use will increase their use, and thus drug legalization is inconsistent with the public health goal of reducing drug use.

WFAD supports many good new ideas to reduce nonmedical drug use including promotion of effective prevention strategies and using the criminal justice system to promote prevention, treatment and recovery.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy released their latest report with recommendations for drug policy on September 8, 2014. The World Federation Against Drugs, WFAD, welcomes an open and honest debate around drug policy especially in light of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, UNGASS, that will be held in 2016. WFAD is guided by the 1961, 1971 and 1988 UN drug conventions and the resolution resulting from the UNGASS-meeting of 1998. We believe that the UN conventions provide the necessary platform for international cooperation to reducing non-medical drug use, a major global epidemic with serious public health and public safety consequences.

WFAD also adheres to Article 33 in the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child that states: “ States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances.�

In the foreword, the Global Commission on Drugs Policy asks that the political declaration from the UNGASS 2016 not aim at solving the drug problem. The Commission reiterates that the international community needs to come to terms with the reality that easy answers to the drug problem do not exist. WFAD would like to remind the Commission that the preamble of the Single Convention recognizes that “addiction to drugs constitutes a serious evil for the individual and is fraught with social and economic danger to mankind�. Illicit drugs are a threat to the health and welfare of mankind. Recognizing this threat, the global community must work toward the goal of a drug-free world, very much as it works toward the goals of a cancer-free, poverty-free and crime-free world. The ambitious drug-free goal is neither utopian nor impossible. The Commission settles for lesser goals, which inhibit more effective solutions. Big goals produce big and well-targeted efforts. Small goals lead to small increments only.

We must strive for a drug-free world, not because it is easy but because it is hard!

WFAD agrees with the Commission that public health, community safety, human rights and development should be at the center of drug policy. We welcome the emphasis that the Global Commission puts on ensuring access of essential medicines. Too many people live without access to essential medicines and removing obstacles to these medicines should be of priority for the member states.. This is also one of the aims of the drug conventions; therefore WFAD encourages member states to ensure that the conventions fulfill their purpose, to ensure the availability of controlled medicines to the whole world.

WFAD also welcomes the debate around human rights in drug policy. We support the abolition of the death penalty for drug related crimes. [1] Unfortunately the respect for human rights is not universal and violations on human rights should be fought in every case. Treatment should be guided by human dignity, human rights and be evidence-based; an even more important aspect if the treatment is compulsory. The respect for human life and human dignity is highlighted in the three drug conventions, and there is nothing in the drug conventions that stand in contradiction to human rights; they are written to be a complement. We therefore welcome a debate in UNGASS 2016 on how the respect for human rights can better be followed by member states and welcome as an outcome from the meeting the recommendation of proportionality which allows for treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation or social integration as an alternative to conviction or punishment from the meeting.

In contrast to the Global Commission on Drugs, WFAD sees no contradiction between the criminal system and the health system. Seeing the future of drug policy as a choice between the criminal justice system and the health system is not only false, it fails to recognize the complementary nature of these two vital systems. Together they can achieve goals that neither can achieve alone.

The Commission suggests that different models of regulation of drugs should be applied to reduce social and health harms and disempower organized crime. The Commission recognizes that use of drugs can be increased if drugs are legalized but claims that the totality of associated social and health harms is likely to decrease. The Commission claims that lessons should be learnt from the experiences with alcohol and tobacco, which they claim are drugs that are produced and transited largely without problem.

Overlooked in the report is the fact that worldwide 3.3 million people die every year due to the harmful effects of alcohol [2] and tobacco kills nearly 6 million people every year[3]. The World Health Organization, WHO, states that tobacco use is responsible for the death of about 1 in 10 adults worldwide. [4] It is estimated that around 500.000 children are working on tobacco plantations around the world, in direct violation of the children’s right to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous, as stated in Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. [5] Over one quarter of exported cigarettes disappear into the illegal market. [6]

According to WHO, the production of alcohol for export is concentrated to the hands of a few companies mostly based in developed countries. These companies spend heavily on marketing to stimulate demand for alcohol beverages. With the decrease of demand in developed countries they have intensified their marketing towards establishing new markets, for example low-income countries, women and young people who traditionally abstained or consumed very little alcohol. The new markets are recognizing alcohol for its revenue-generating profit but the substantial costs of alcohol-related problems are uncounted. [7] Despite a strict regulation of alcohol and tobacco, as for example in Sweden, most minors have access to alcohol and tobacco. There is no reason to believe that a regulated market for cannabis, heroin and cocaine will be any more successful to limiting these products to adults.

The essential question that must be asked is if the most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of illicit drugs is through legal regulation as suggested by the Commission. The global experience with alcohol and tobacco demonstrates that they are not examples of great success of regulated functioning markets. There is no data to support that a regulated market for cannabis, heroin and cocaine will be any different from alcohol and tobacco. If lessons should be learnt from alcohol and tobacco it is that legalization of drugs will increase supply of drugs, create an extensive black market and that companies will market drugs to minors and within developing countries.

The pathway towards an enlightened drug policy cannot be achieved through legalization of drugs; instead it must harness the criminal justice system to reinforce prevention, thwart drugs markets, and facilitate entry into treatment – while restricting prolonged incarceration to egregious and repeat offenders. The criminal justice system plays an integral role in drug use prevention by protecting public safety, reducing the availability of drugs and discouraging drug use and leveraging people to treatment.

There is much work to be done globally to solve the world drug problem, but if not aiming to solve the problem, there is little evidence that we will come closer to reaching this goal.

To summarize WFAD supports the following principles to serve as a platform for the drug policy debate:

· Drug policies should prevent initiation of drug use.

· Drug policies must respect human rights (for users and non-users alike) as well as the principle of proportionality.

· Drug policies should strike a balance of efforts to reduce the use of drugs and the supply of drugs.

· Drug policies should protect children from drug use.

· Drug policies should ensure access to medical help, treatment and recovery services.

· Drug policies should ensure access to controlled drugs for legitimate scientific and medical purposes.

· Drug policies should ensure that medical and judicial responses are coordinated with the goal of reducing drug use and drug-related consequences. [8]








[8] Drug Policy Futures principals can be found in full here:


World Federation Against Drugs Release in response to The Report of the West African Commission on Drugs urging West African Countries to Decriminalize/Legalize Drugs

A Report titled, “Not Just in transit Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa� prepared by a group of ex-public servants and some Civil Society activists under the auspices of the West African Commission on Drugs (WACD) has been brought to the notice of the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD).

After perusing the said Report, WFAD wishes to highlight the following facts pertinent to the Report with a view towards putting the intention and objectives of its sponsors and originators in proper perspective.

  1. WACD was established in 2013, soon after some of its principal financiers, the Kofi Annan Foundation and the Open Society Institute had declared their support for the global decriminalization/legalization of drugs. WACD appears to have been set up to champion the quest by its financiers for decriminalization/legalization of drugs. The purported assemblage of ‘experts from across the continents’ to prepare The Report, a Report for which WACD was set up for, clearly has not been above board.
  2. The entirety of The Report is spiced and garnished with carefully selected data and statistics from territories, foreign and distant from the West African sub-region, with little, if any, socio-cultural and geo-political similarities to the sub-region. As such, the relevance of such data and statistics as foundations for a fundamental reversal in drug policies is highly doubtful.
  3. The Report, whilst recognizing the importance of treatment and rehabilitation services and facilities in addressing the drug scourge plaguing any territory, and as a component aspect of the decriminalization/legalization of drugs, fails to acknowledge the near total absence of such services and facilities in the West African sub-region. Any attempts to dabble into decriminalization/legalization of drugs in the absence of well-structured and efficient treatment and rehabilitation programs will certainly spell doom for the sub-region.

    The call for decriminalization/legalization of drugs, as contained in The Report, is in direct conflict with the provisions of various international protocols and conventions on narcotics/drugs. West African States, which are all State parties to these international conventions would, be in breach of their commitments as responsible members of the international community if they were to heed the request for decriminalization/legalization of drugs being championed by WACD.

  4. By not factoring in any measures to protect the millions of children (who constitute well over 50% of the population of West African countries) from the harmful and debilitating effects of drugs, the gist of the Report by WACD encourages non- compliance with Article 33 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in addition to running afoul of the provisions of a multiplicity of international conventions on narcotics and psychotropic substances. Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides: “ States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances�.
  5. A natural progression from the postulations contained in The Report that decriminalization/legalization of drugs would reduce the ‘enormous’ burden the war on drugs has placed on the sub-regions Criminal Justice System, particularly in terms of the number of persons incarcerated for drug-related offences, would be to also assert that the decriminalization/legalization of theft/stealing would be to any society’s best interest as it will lead to a decongestion of prisons – obviously not a very sound proposition.
  6. As one of the cardinal arguments for decriminalization/legalization of drugs, The Report places repeated emphasis on the impact of ‘Drug Trafficking’ as a factor that greatly undermines already weak States and a tool for political instability across the West African sub-region – lavishly citing the example of Guinea-Bissau. This argument is at the very least tenuous, but most likely, deliberately mischievous.
  7. Pervasive large-scale corruption, endemic in the West African sub-region, which has served to weaken State institutions and ensure continuing widespread poverty and maladministration in the sub-region, rendering the countries in the sub-region increasingly incapable of meeting the needs of their populations, is the bane of West Africa. Would a solution to the scourge of large-scale corruption be, as suggested by The Report with regards to the scourge of drug abuse, be to decriminalize/legalize large-scale corruption?
  8. 9. The weak public health infrastructure of the West African sub-region is presently, totally overwhelmed by the high prevalence of infectious and communicable diseases, grapples with Malaria, Cholera, poor maternal and infant mortality rates and certainly would do well without the added burden of an explosion of drug abuse- related ailments that would ensue following the decriminalization/legalization of drugs.
  9. 10. A trite and constant fact in addressing the problems of drug abuse in any jurisdiction is that preventive education and public enlightenment programs about the consequences of substance abuse are several times more cost effective than interdiction, treatment and rehabilitation strategies as tools for tackling the drug problem. WFAD is extremely worried, that despite the weak state of the economies of all West African countries (most of which rank amongst the 20 poorest countries in

    the world by World Bank figures), there is a near total discountenance and non- mention of Prevention as a tool for addressing the drug problem in the Report produced by WACD.

In the light of the foregoing, WFAD finds it extremely difficult to associate any altruistic motives concerning the quest for drug decriminalization/legalization being advanced by The Report released by WACD. 

WFAD would thus enjoin all the States in the West African sub-region to discount and decline the efforts at decriminalization/legalization of drugs.

Eze Eluchie
,President, African Center for Health Law and Development, Nigeria, Board
Member of WFAD

Rogers Kasirye
,Executive Director, Uganda Youth Development Link, Uganda, Board
Member of WFAD

May 21, 2014

WFAD is guided by the 1961, 1971 and 1988 UN drug conventions and the resolution resulting from the UNGASS-meeting 1998. The UN Conventions provide the necessary platform for international cooperation to reducing non-medical drug use, a major global epidemic with serious public health and public safety consequences.

The preamble of the Single Convention recognizes that “addiction to drugs constitutes a serious evil for the individual and is fraught with social and economic danger to mankind�1. Illicit drugs are a threat to the health and welfare of mankind. Recognizing this threat, the global community must work toward the goal of a drug-free world, very much as it works toward the goals of a cancer-free, poverty-free and crime free world. This ambitious goal is neither utopian nor impossible. Too often, we settle for lesser goals which inhibit more effective solutions. Big goals produce big and well-targeted efforts. Small goals lead to small increments only.

Instead of legalizing drugs, an enlightened drug policy can harness the criminal justice system to reinforce prevention, thwart drugs markets, and facilitate entry into treatment – while restricting prolonged incarceration to egregious and repeat offenders. The criminal justice system plays an integral role in drug use prevention by protecting public safety, reducing the availability of drugs and discouraging drug use and leveraging people to treatment.

Seeing the future of drug policy as a choice between the criminal justice system and the health system is not only false, it fails to recognize the complementary nature of these two vital systems. Together they can achieve goals that neither can achieve alone.

The criminal justice system and the medical- and social system in the society must work together to curb illicit drug use. The criminal justice system must empower people to become drug-free and crime-free as well as to be productive and integrated members of society. The world needs a balanced, restrictive drug policy that prevents illegal drug use and that intervenes with drug users to provide them with a path to life-long recovery.

WFAD urges states to use alternative sanctions that enforce abstinence and to use effective alternatives to imprisonment for drug related offenses such as Drug Treatment Courts and HOPE Probation. The world needs a strong, restrictive drug policy that is compassionate, effective and affordable. This better drug policy makes clear that illegal drugs use is unacceptable.

Consistent with this policy WFAD opposes the use of the death penalty for violations of laws prohibiting or regulating the possession, use, distribution, and the manufacture of illegal drugs.

What is the international drug control regime?

The international drug control regime is based on three international conventions: the 1961 Single Convention against Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The overarching aim of these three conventions is to control the production, trade, and use of drugs to combat drug abuse and trafficking, while at the same time ensuring that there are adequate supplies for medical and other licit uses. These conventions are widely ratified: 183 state parties ratified the 1961 and 1971 Conventions and 188 parties ratified the 1988 Convention.

Author: Saul Takahashi, Human Rights Lawyer

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