The ’war on drugs’ is collapsing. Now let’s build the alternative. The ‘war on drugs’ was built on shaky foundations. Now, countries around the world from Canada, to Uruguay, Portugal and many US states are beginning to dismantle it piece by piece. Its collapse is good news for people and communities around the world, providing us with the opportunity to build a new approach to drugs that prioritises, promotes and protects human health and well-being. This shift, from a criminal justice approach to health-based policy making, is essential if we want to take drug policy into the 21st century. It is time for the UK to catch up, and develop and promote appropriate, evidence-based, and sustainable alternatives both in the UK and globally.

Building a new drug policy architecture

This new approach will ensure that rather than penalising or criminalising people involved in the drug trade, we recognise that it is often injustice, inequality and vulnerability that drives them to engage in that trade in the first place, whether that is as consumers, producers or suppliers. Rather than compounding problems like poverty, powerlessness and stigma with a hard-line prohibitionist approach, which has failed on its own terms, we must aim to approach drug policy in a way that works to address these drivers of engagement with the drug trade, and at the same time makes engaging in that trade as harm-free as possible. If we do this effectively we have the chance to develop and build a whole new paradigm to replace the ‘war on drugs.’ Below are six key steps the UK government can take to lead the way in ending the ‘war on drugs’ at home and abroad.