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Drug Policy Alliance
New York, NY (Headquarters)
givvers: jason, tweaks

The Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA Network) is the nation’s leading organization promoting policy alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

Our supporters are individuals who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. Together we advance policies that reduce the harms of both drug misuse and drug prohibition, and seek solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies. We work to ensure that our nation’s drug policies no longer arrest, incarcerate, disenfranchise and otherwise harm millions of nonviolent people. Our work inevitably requires us to address the disproportionate impact of the drug war on people of color.

Drug Policy Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization.

Latest News

Carl Hart, PhD, a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University, recently gave a compelling TEDMED Talk in which he dispelled the myths about drugs, drug use and drug misuse. In the talk, Hart eloquently discussed the negative influence that drug hysteria had on the flawed drug laws the United States grapples with today.

His unflinching, eye-opening talk mirrored his widely-renowned book, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (HarperCollins, 2013), a groundbreaking memoir/science book which recently won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.

“My TED talk is a public education effort to combat drug myths, bad drug policy, and to help keep people safe,” said Dr. Hart. “Millions of people languish unnecessarily in jails and prisons largely, and still others needlessly die from preventable overdoses, underground market violence and police interactions, due to a misguided approach to drug regulations. And no one suffers more than African American men and the poor.”

Hart, who is a board member of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization promoting alternatives to current drug policies, demonstrates thorough clinical research and insightful social analysis. He maintains that what plagued poor black communities during the 1980s was less crack-cocaine, than it was unemployment, racism and hopelessness. Further, he provides evidence showing that the overwhelming majority (80% – 90%) all drug use is not, in fact, problematic or indicative of addiction. The real social catastrophe, he argues, is the criminalization and stigmatization of that population.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful oratory. The talk can be viewed in its entirety here.

Date Published: September 17, 2014
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

I don’t smoke, but I find myself fascinated by and passionate about the debate over e-cigarettes.  Why?  Because e-cigarettes illustrate how harm reduction approaches to drug policy, particularly maintenance or substitution therapies, are at once both filled with promise and deeply misunderstood.

The U.S., using public health approaches, has made incredible strides in reducing the number of smokers. But 480,000 people in the U.S. will die from cigarette smoking each year, a number that has remained relatively stable since 2004. While education, prevention and cessation programs must continue, these strategies are unlikely to result in the kind of big reductions in smoking at the population level that we have seen in the past. Many of those still smoking simply cannot or will not quit.

E-cigarettes, electronic devices that deliver nicotine via a vapor, eliminate almost all of the harmful chemicals of smoking and are preferred by smokers over nicotine patches or gum (which have not proven successful at helping most people quit long term).  Nicotine is an addictive substance but one with relatively few harmful health effects, especially compared to smoked tobacco. While more research is needed and better regulation of the contents of e-cigarettes could improve consumer safety, research to date suggests that neither the secondhand vapor nor the contents of most e-cigarettes themselves is particularly hazardous. They are certainly far less toxic than cigarette smoke. Some have raised concerns that e-cigarettes will increase smoking among youth or people who have never smoked. So far, however, the research does not bear out these fears.

The risks associated with e-cigarettes, which appear at this point to be modest, must be weighed against the potential benefits. On the individual level, there is good evidence to suggest that some people who use e-cigarettes reduce or eliminate their use of traditional cigarettes, decreasing harm to themselves and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke to those around them.  It’s too early to say, what the impact at the population level will be, but in countries, like Sweden, where smokeless tobacco products, like snus, became popular, smoking rates (along with lung cancer and myocardial infarction) dropped dramatically. A substantial proportion (around 30%) of male ex-smokers in Sweden used snus when quitting smoking, and researchers have attributed the drop in smoking nationwide in part to the increasing use of this less harmful smokeless product.

Despite these potential health benefits, many public health officials have come out strongly against e-cigarettes (see for example, the e-cigarette ban in New York City). Rather than opposing substitution and maintenance therapies, like e-cigarettes, the public health community should be embracing them. It’s time for us all to acknowledge that some people will always use nicotine, just as some people will always use other drugs, such as heroin or prescription opioids. They have either tried and failed to quit – often hundreds of times – or they simply choose not to quit.

Julie Netherland is the New York deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Julie Netherland
Date Published: September 17, 2014
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Earlier today, Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced legislation to reform the Pentagon program, which transfers military equipment to law enforcement. The program has come under increased scrutiny from lawmakers after images from Ferguson, Missouri, showed law enforcement dressed like combat soldiers, using military equipment to deal with protestors. The Pentagon program has its roots in the drug war, coming to fruition in the early 90s as the U.S. government militarized its approach to drug policy. Just last week, Senators held a hearing on the issue of militarization in our law enforcement, where they critical of the Pentagon program.

Johnson and Labrador’s bill, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act has already received support from numerous legislators on both sides of the aisle. This rare bipartisan moment is a recognition that the increased militarization of law enforcement has to stop.

“In light of what we all saw in Ferguson, Missouri, the American people are clamoring for law enforcement to become less militarized. Grenades, drones, and tanks may belong on the battlefield; they certainly don’t have a place on U.S. streets,” said Michael Collins, Policy Manager at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Such militarization is inextricably linked to the drug war, where swat teams and no-knock raids have become a routine part of drug arrests, even in the case of nonviolent offenders.”

The bill tackles the militarization of law enforcement in the following ways:

  • Inclusion of better oversight and management of the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which allows the free transfer of certain military equipment to law enforcement
  • Removal of any reference to counterdrug operations from the program, thus ensuring that law enforcement is not incentivized to use the equipment to perform arrests of those suspected of being low-level, non-violent drug offenders
  • Lists equipment that is not suitable for law enforcement use, such as: drones, grenades, and mine-resistant tanks.

The huge problem of police militarization has received increased attention because of the events in Ferguson, but many have been sounding the alarm for years. Journalist Radley Balko has noted the nexus between the drug war and police militarization in his writing, while the ACLU’s June 2014 report on this issue noted that from 2011-2012, 62% of swat teams were deployed for for drug searches.

“This legislation is a thoughtful attempt at tackling a very worrying problem – the militarization of law enforcement,” Collins continued. “The Pentagon program is highly problematic because preferential treatment is given to those police forces that use their equipment to fight the drug war. This bill would end that, and move us away from a heavy-handed approach to drug policy,” stated Collins.

Date Published: September 16, 2014
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Jokes filled the crisp, foggy early morning air at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. “We’re all number 420! Is that so we don’t get confused?” joked a young man.

“I hope everyone remembers that this is today,” laughed a young woman as she laced up her running shoes.

But, all jokes aside, there were nearly one hundred people gathering outside the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on that chilly morning, and they were there to voluntarily run 3.2 miles at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, all in the name of busting through stereotypes on who is a marijuana consumer.

The 420 Games is the brainchild of Jim McAlpine, the man behind the San Francisco Bay Area snowboard and ski event SnowBomb. The premise is simple - provide an opportunity for responsible, healthy marijuana users to showcase their athleticism while raising money and awareness for the marijuana legalization movement.

From Jeff Spicoli to Cheech and Chong, marijuana consumers have historically been portrayed in the media as lazy, stupid, irresponsible, and with an affinity for sitting on the couch and munching on Doritos.

There were no Cheetos to be found at the 420 games, but participants were offered water (regular and coconut) Cliff bars and bananas, you know, the things people usually ingest before and after exercising. And despite the early start time on a chilly Saturday morning, the runners were excited and proud to support this progressive and reality-based image of marijuana consumers.

Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harborside Health Center gave remarks to the crowd after the race and said that he hopes the 420 Games will be a chance for Olympic level athletes to show their support for ending the stigma around marijuana use. DeAngelo also spoke of the wellness model, which he believes applies to most marijuana consumers.

He mused of a typical situation in American households, where the overworked and underpaid often bring that stress home with them, resulting in poor eating and sleeping habits, and disruption of family bonding. With a little marijuana, he said, suddenly your appetite is back, and you sleep better, and relate to your kids and your spouse in a way that’s less impacted by the stresses of the outside world.

Of course, there are pharmaceutical drugs to address those issues, but often with disruptive and potentially dangerous side effects, not to mention a high risk of dependence.

As I ran in the race, I observed the runners striving to complete the course, some raced through it, and some stopped to walk along the way, but no one gave up.

It reminded me of the wider fight for marijuana legalization. There are setbacks, and hurdles, and times when we are tired and just want to rest. But we don’t, because we believe in what we are doing, and we are determined to make it to the finish line.

Determination, drive and the willingness to get up for an 8 a.m. race on a Saturday is something our opponents do not expect from us.

Let’s continue to prove them wrong.

Amanda Reiman is the manager of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Amanda Reiman, PhD
Date Published: September 16, 2014
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

SACRAMENTO, CA—Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s pharmacy naloxone bill (AB 1535), which will permit pharmacists to furnish the opiate overdose reversal medicine naloxone hydrochloride upon request. Previously, naloxone was available only by prescription from a healthcare provider or from a handful of naloxone distribution programs throughout the state. The bill, sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Pharmacists Association, was strongly supported by health and drug treatment organizations, as well as parents’ groups.

“I am very pleased that the Governor has signed AB 1535 into law.  AB 1535 will have a real and immediate impact on reducing overdose deaths in California and will empower families throughout the state to access this life-saving drug,”  said the bill’s author Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica). “The bill has received overwhelming support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.  With the signing of AB 1535, I am encouraged to seek out additional innovative policies aimed at ending our drug overdose crisis,” he added.

The new law will permit pharmacists to furnish the life-saving drug to family members - people who may be in contact with a person at risk of an opiate overdose - or to the patient requesting it, pursuant to guidelines to be developed by the state’s boards of pharmacy and medicine. It also ensures education and training for both the pharmacist and the consumer.

“Lives can be lost in the minutes waiting for an officer or an ambulance to arrive with naloxone.  This makes it much easier for caregivers and family members to keep naloxone on hand for use in those critical moments,” said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction manager of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “Expanding pharmacy access to naloxone in California reflects the movement nationally to make naloxone more widely available,” she added.

While California was an early leader in drafting legislation permitting sales of naloxone without a prescription, the national effort to expand access to the overdose antidote can be seen in other states including Washington, Rhode Island and New Mexico, where naloxone is becoming increasingly accessible to patients without prescription and via collaborative practice agreements between pharmacists and physicians. New York and Vermont recently passed similar legislation.

In addition to expanding access to naloxone, California also has a ‘911 Good Samaritan’ law, which encourages people to call for emergency assistance at the scene of an overdose without fearing arrest or prosecution for minor drug law violations.

Naloxone, also called Narcan, was approved by the FDA in 1971 and has been used to reverse opiate overdoses in emergency rooms and ambulances for decades. It is non-abusable and works within minutes to restore breathing in people overdosing on opiate drugs such oxycodone and heroin. It can be administered either intramuscularly via injection or as a nasal spray.

AB 1535 was supported by a long list of public health organizations, drug treatment providers and advocacy groups including: California Pharmacists Association (co-sponsor); Drug Policy Alliance (co-sponsor); California Narcotic Officers’ Association; Medical Board of California; California Hospital Association; California Society of Addiction Medicine; A New PATH; Addiction Research and Treatment; Amity Foundation; Bay Area Addiction Recovery Treatment; Behind the Orange Curtain; Broadway Treatment Center; Broken No More; California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, Inc.; California Mental Health Directors Association; California Opioid Maintenance Providers; California Retailers Association; California United for a Responsible Budget; Center for Living and Learning ; County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators Association of California; CRI-HELP, Inc.; Drug and Alcohol Addiction Awareness and Prevention Program; Families ACT!; Fred Brown Recovery Services; Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center; Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing; Health Officers Association of California; Health Right 360; Hillview Mental Health Center; Homeless Health Care Los Angeles; Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission; In Depth; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse; Los Angeles Community Action Network; Los Angeles County HIV Drug & Alcohol Task Force; Mary Magdalene Project; National Federation of Independent Business; Not One More; Paramedics Plus; Paving the Way Foundation; Phoenix House of Los Angeles; Primary Purpose Sober Living Homes; Safer Alternatives thru Networking & Education; San Fernando Recovery Center; SHIELDS For Families; Soberspace; Solace.

Date Published: September 16, 2014
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Dear Doctors,

I am 18 years old and about to start my freshman year of college. Honestly, I feel very unprepared by the drug education classes I had in high school. I have never tried marijuana and I do not know if I want to, but I know it will be around at college so I was wondering if you had any advice for incoming freshman like myself?

Wondering Freshman

Dear Wondering,

Thank you for your question. You are correct that most drug education classes leave out important safety information about drug use in favor of a “Just Say No” approach. I am happy to offer information on how to more safely navigate marijuana in college. First off, you do NOT have to try marijuana, even if others around you are. While many think that marijuana use is an expected part of the college experience, this is not true. Many students abstain from alcohol and other drugs until they are older, which is a great choice.

College is a time of new found freedom and responsibility which can be exciting and stressful. Using alcohol and other drugs during this time can make the stress worse and might detract from all the other fun and engaging opportunities that college can offer. While most people who use drugs do so non-problematically, being young is a risk factor for problematic drug use, so it is safest to wait until you are a bit older.  However, if you do decide to try marijuana, there are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of having a negative experience.

Do NOT mix marijuana with other substances, especially alcohol. Marijuana is a relatively safe substance compared to other intoxicants, but only when used alone. Marijuana and alcohol have a synergistic relationship (1+1=4) and mixing the two can increase your chance of an auto accident or negative physical reaction. Which brings me to…

Do NOT use marijuana and drive. While we have not yet developed reliable and valid technology for assessing marijuana intoxication on the road, it is illegal to drive under the influence of any substance, legal or not. Anytime you ingest an intoxicating substance, you should not get behind the wheel of a car.

If you decide to use marijuana, alcohol or any other drug, do so with someone you trust. Do not use them alone and do not use them if you are with people you do not know or in a situation that is new to you. When it comes to all alcohol and drug use, set and setting are very important. Set refers to your state of mind when using the substance, and setting refers to your environment.

Be aware of your campus drug policies. Marijuana prohibition can carry stiff penalties on college campuses, including expulsion and the denial of funding. Some campuses have equalized their penalties for underage drinking and marijuana use as to not encourage students to choose alcohol (which causes more problems than marijuana on campuses and elsewhere). But, know your campus rules and abide by them, it’s not worth the risk. In all but 2 states (CO and WA) recreational marijuana use is illegal. Penalties are highly variable and range from a ticket to mandatory jail time. Also, even in CO and WA, marijuana use is only legal for those 21 and older.

Do NOT eat marijuana infused food without extreme caution. Refer to our previous blog on edibles for more information. But, if you are new to marijuana, it is wise to skip the edibles all together. It is much easier to control your dose if ingesting through inhalation (smoking, vaporizing), so those are better methods of ingestion for someone who has not tried it before. If you do decide to eat marijuana infused food, eat it on a full stomach, eat a tiny amount to start (1/4 of the recommended dose) and wait at least an hour before ingesting more.

Just because you use try it once it does not mean that you need to use it again. And, even if you choose to use it again, less is always better. Always be aware of how your alcohol and other drug use might be interfering with other activities, school and your life.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions for help if you need it. Colleges provide access to health care, both physical and psychological. If you are feeling anxious or stressed, whether it is related to marijuana use or not, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. As I mentioned, starting college can be a stressful time. While alcohol and other drugs might seem like a go to way to deal with these feelings, it is important to examine whether those behaviors are getting in the way of becoming the person you want to be.

So, there you have it. Feel free to pass this information along to your friends and enjoy your freshman year.


The Docs

Dr. Malik Burnett is a former surgeon and physician advocate. He also served as executive director of a medical marijuana nonprofit organization. Amanda Reiman, PhD, holds a doctorate in Social Welfare and teaches classes on drug policy at the University of California-Berkeley.

Have a question for the Doctors? Click here to submit your question.

View more Ask the Doctors about Marijuana blog posts.

General Disclaimer: Site Provides No Medical Advice

This site is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. Through this site and linkages to other sites, the Drug Policy Alliance provides general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this site, or through linkages to other sites, is not medical advice and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. The Drug Policy Alliance is not liable or responsible for any advice or information you obtain through this site.

Author: Dr. Malik Burnett and Amanda Reiman, PhD MSW
Date Published: September 10, 2014
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

This week the Global Commission on Drug Policy is releasing a new, groundbreaking report called Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work. It reflects a new evolution in the thinking of the Commissioners, who include Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, and the former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland.
They not only reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches – but now also call for responsible legal regulation of currently-illegal drugs. In perhaps the strongest line of the report, they state:
“Ultimately the most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”
The Commission’s significance lies in both the prominence of its members and the boldness of their recommendations.  The Commissioners pull no punches in insisting that national and global drug control policymakers reject prohibition in favor of new policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.
When the Commission released its initial report just three years ago, it broke new ground in both advancing and globalizing the debate over drug prohibition and its alternatives. Yet few expected its recommendations to be embraced anytime soon by current presidents.
But that’s exactly what happened.
The current presidents of Colombia and Guatemala have spoken out boldly, then-President Calderon of Mexico called on the United Nations to reassess the prohibitionist approach to drugs, and Uruguayan President Mujica approved the first national law to legally regulate cannabis.
In turn, these developments instigated the process that resulted in the upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 2016, which will present the opportunity to lay the foundation of a new drug control regime for the 21st century. Whereas the previous UNGASS meetings were dominated by rhetorical calls for a “drug-free world” and concluded with unrealistic goals, the upcoming UNGASS will undoubtedly be shaped by the recommendations of the Global Commission.
The Drug Policy Alliance has worked closely with the Commission from its origins – advising its members and deliberations, helping publicize its reports, and coordinating on its outreach efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Americas.
There’s now no question that drug policy reform has moved from the fringes to the mainstream of U.S. and international politics – and hopefully this new call from the Commission will help turn that momentum into real-world reforms.
With millions upon millions of people in the U.S. and around the world still suffering the brutal consequences of the war on drugs, we have a clear ethical imperative – not to mention fiscal, public safety, and public health imperatives – to compel elected officials to embrace and enact the Commission’s recommendations sooner rather than later.
Here’s a taste of some of the media coverage so far:

Jag Davies is the publications manager at the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Jag Davies
Date Published: September 8, 2014
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Today, the Global Commission on Drug Policy will release Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work, a new, groundbreaking report at a press conference in New York City. The event will be live-streamed and speakers include former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, Richard Branson and others.

The Commissioners will then meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson in the afternoon following the press conference.

The report reflects the evolution in the thinking of the Commissioners, who reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches and now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes.

In 2011, the Commission’s initial report broke new ground in both advancing and globalizing the debate over drug prohibition and its alternatives. Saying the time had come to “break the taboo”, it condemned the drug war as a failure and recommended major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime.

The Commission’s work has helped to create conditions for not just former presidents but current presidents to speak out as well. The Commission’s calls for reform were joined by current Presidents Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia, Otto Perez Molina in Guatemala, and José Mujica in Uruguay, as well as then-President Felipe Calderón in Mexico. At the Summit of the Americas in April 2012, drug policy reform was a major topic of debate for the first time in the Summit’s history. In May 2013, the Organization of American States produced a report, commissioned by heads of state of the region, which included legalization as a likely policy alternative. Last December, Uruguay then took the discussion another step further by becoming the first country in the world to approve the legal regulation of the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

These developments instigated the process that resulted in the upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 2016, which will present the opportunity to lay the foundation of a new drug control regime for the 21stcentury. Whereas the previous UNGASS meeting in 1998 was dominated by rhetorical calls for a “drug-free world” and concluded with unrealistic goals regarding illicit drug production, the Global Commission hopes that the forthcoming meeting in 2016 will consider its recommendations and be used as a space for reshaping drug policy along the principles of human rights, public health and scientific evidence, and allowing member States to take control.

“The facts speak for themselves. It is time to change course,” said Kofi Annan, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and convenor of the West Africa Commission on Drugs (chaired by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, of Nigeria), which presented wide-ranging recommendations for drug policy reform earlier this year. “We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize  drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment. This has led not only to overcrowded jails but also to severe health and social problems.”

“Ultimately, the global drug control regime must be reformed to permit legal regulation,” said former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso.  “Let’s start by treating drug addiction as a health issue – rather than as a crime – and by reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives. But let’s also allow and encourage countries to carefully test models of responsible legal regulation as a means to undermine the power of organized crime, which thrives on illicit drug trafficking.”

“As several European countries became aware of the harms caused by repressive drug policies, they adopted harm reduction and innovative treatment strategies like needle exchange, substitution therapies, heroin prescription and safe consumption rooms, as well as the the decriminalization of drug consumption and possession for personal use”, said former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss. “Such lifesaving and safety enhancing measures represent only half of the way to dealing responsibly with drugs in our societies. Regulating the whole chain, from the production to the retail of drugs, allows to rollback criminal organizations, secure quality standards and protect people’s life, health and safety.”

“Health-based approaches to drug policy routinely prove much less expensive and more effective than criminalization and incarceration,” said former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo. "Decriminalization of drug consumption is certainly crucial but not sufficient. Significant legal and institutional reforms, both at the national and international levels, are needed to allow governments and societies to put in place policies to regulate the supply of drugs with rigorous medical criteria, if the engines of organized crime profitting from drug traffic are to be truly dismantled."

“We can’t go on pretending the war on drugs is working,” said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. “We need our leaders to look at alternative, fact-based approaches. Much can be learned from successes and failures in regulating alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceutical drugs. The risks associated with drug use increase, sometimes dramatically, when they are produced, sold and consumed in an unregulated criminal environment. The most effective way to advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”

Taking Control makes seven major recommendations, which can be summarized as follows:

  • Put health and community safety first through a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions.
  • Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain.
  • Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession – and stop imposing “compulsory treatment” on people whose only offense is drug use or possession.
  • Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs.
  • Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state.
  • Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity presented by the upcoming UNGASS in 2016 to reform the global drug policy regime.

Commission Members
(those speaking at the September 9 press conference are underlined):

  • Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, Ghana
  • Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Canada
  • Pavel Bém, former Mayor of Prague, Czech Republic
  • Richard Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom
  • Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair)
  • Maria Cattaui, Petroplus Holdings Board member, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland
  • Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs
  • César Gaviria, former President of Colombia
  • Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan
  • Michel Kazatchkine, UN Secretary General Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, France
  • Aleksander Kwasniewski, former President of Poland
  • Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile
  • George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece
  • Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal
  • George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)
  • Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy , Spain
  • Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway
  • Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru
  • Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board
  • John Whitehead, former Deputy Secretary of State, former Co-Chairman Goldman Sachs & Co. and founding Chairman, 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico
Date Published: September 8, 2014
Published by Global Commission on Drug Policy