Why reforming?

After 50 years of war on drugs, many public drug policies across Europe turn out to be ambiguous, inefficient and obsolete.

To improve public health

Our analysis: The illicit drugs markets are governed by the economic rules of supply and demand. Prohibition has not reduced the size of the market, but has merely given vast corrupting power to organised crime. Banned drugs have never been more available or cheaper or more dangerous. Transnational organised crime is more powerful and ruthless with every passing year.

Objective: For drug policies to follow evidence. Prohibition should be replaced with nuanced legal regulation. Each drug should be regulated according to relative risks. Drugs should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal one, therefore making problematic consumption easier to prevent and treat.

Key points from history:

  • During alcohol prohibition in the USA, problematic alcohol consumption skyrocketed by 300%. Murder rates increased rapidly every year of the policy.
  • Within four years of President Nixon declaring his aggressive War on Drugs in 1971, the murder detection rate, the percentage of solved murder investigations dropped to 65, and it has never recovered. This is after decades of a stable 85-90% detection rate.
  • When Switzerland introduced Heroin regulation in the form of Heroin Assisted Treatment, their drug deaths dropped dramatically, to less than half of the rate prior to the policy. So did their crime. Domestic burglaries are down 50% and street sex work has virtually disappeared.
  • Following the decriminalisation policies in Portugal, financial resources have been allocated to the justice and health systems, reducing deaths induced by drug use by 80% in 10 years. Between 2001 and 2012, continuous drug use rate has dropped from 45% to 28% in the overall population. 

1912: Signature of the International Opium Convention, the first international drug control treaty

1971: Signature of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances by 184 States, one of three major drug control international treaties currently in force.

2001: Portugal is the first country in the world to decriminalise the personal consumption, acquisition and possession of all illicit drugs.

2016: UNGASS UN summit revealed a growing divergence in the global drug policy landscape.

To reduce criminality

Our analysis: The illegal drug market obeys classic economical laws of supply and demand. Yet, the prohibition makes it harder for consumer to get drugs, pushing prices upwards and quality downwards, ultimately making consumption more dangerous. 

Objective: Put an end to prohibition policies to reduce dangerous behaviours and organise the use of drugs based on their actual dangerousness within a medical setting. More prevention should also be deployed, especially among at-risk populations.

Key figures:

  • Following the prohibition on alcohol in the US, alcoholism rate skyrocketed to 300% with the openings of speakeasies
  • Following the opening of drug injection rooms in Switzerland, deaths by overdose have been halved.
  • Following the decriminalisation policies in Portugal, financial resources have been allocated to the justice and health systems, reducing deaths induced by drug use by 80% in 10 years. Between 2001 and 2012, continuous drug use rate has dropped from 45% to 28% in the overall population. 

To protect the youth

Our analysis: Criminalisation of drug use make the youth more vulnerable and less informed. First, illegal drugs make it more appealing for young people to transgress the rule. Moreover, prohibition transform the market towards more dangerous drug uses, especially affecting youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds. Compartmentalising and regulating markets makes first-time drug consumption more difficult and makes it possible to have an efficient drug prevention policy to give the sense of responsibility to users. 

Objective: Implement a drug policy that genuinely reduces drug access to the youth and drug consumption risks through “pedagogy of the forbidden”.

Key figures:

  • A 2017 study led by the think tank Volteface and researchers of the Manchester Metropolitan University and the King’s College London showed that “street cannabis” has got a high concentration in THC and is therefore dangerous for the mental health of youngsters.
  • During the first two years of compete cannabis legalisation in Colorado in 2014 and 2015, consumption among teenagers dropped by 12%.

To restore trust between police and population

Our analysis: Current punitive drug laws dramatically disproportionately affect minorities. They degrade the relationship between the police and the population. Police in a liberal society can not act effectively without the consent and cooperation of the public. Over time this breach in connection and trust reduces crime detection figures and the broader effectiveness of crime investigation.

Objective: To restore the link between police and all communities. To build upon it. End the idea that civil police can be an occupying force. Treat drugs as the health issue that they are, and not a criminal issue that targets the poor and otherwise marginalised parts of society.

Key figures:

  • Neil Franklin, a former police officer in Baltimore, USA, assures that arrests because of cannabis possession, especially within minorities, create a “hostile environment” between police and communities. 
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