By Kasia Malinowska - Virgin.com

Governments across the world have invested in the war on drugs for decades. The complete eradication of drug crops and prohibition of their consumption has been the only goal. In this process, terrible pain and suffering has been inflicted around the world in the name of pursuing the fantasy of a drug-free world.

The United Nations has been the primary international mechanism upholding the prohibitionist approach for the past several decades, but this month they are convening a Special Session on drugs (UNGASS) in New York – the first such worldwide meeting since 1998. While many such gatherings have rubber stamped the status quo, the drugs UNGASS is an opportunity to reconsider current policy and to give space to voices who urge a new approach that prioritises health, social inclusion, development and human rights over interdiction, prohibition and punishment.

The clamour for change is growing louder, from former heads of state in South America and Western Europe to rural farmers in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan. Rather than demanding drug crops be destroyed, attempts are being made to manage production. Instead of insisting people quit using drugs entirely, ways are being sought to reduce the harm drugs can cause. In place of using criminal justice as an ineffective deterrent, information and social support is offered.

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