The use of punishments such as incarceration for those involved in the illicit drug trade has long been relied upon a deterrent. However, it has resulted in the imposition of disproportionate sentencing (including the use of the death penalty) and overcrowded prisons, with high risks to health, social cohesion and human rights. Some countries and jurisdictions are now moving towards decriminalisation, alternatives to prison and the regulation of some markets.
Scepticism has grown in Iran over the effectiveness of the death penalty in deterring drug smuggling, with government reports showing it has had no impact on reducing the volume and variety of drugs in Iran.
Contrary to what US Attorney General Jeff Sessions says, the recent shutdown of two major dark web sites – AlphaBay and Hansa – will not reduce the prevalence of online drug marketplaces or solve the opioid crisis. In fact, it may do the opposite.
In a worrying development, Cambodian officials are seeking means to speed up court procedures and liquidate the seized assets of suspected drug traffickers before they are convicted to help fund the government’s ongoing efforts to combat drugs.