With regional and international heads of state gathering in Manila, the Philippines, for the 31st Asean Summit, which kicks off on Friday and runs through Tuesday, it seems appropriate to examine whether or not there are more effective drug policies than those currently at play in dealing with the harms caused by the presence of drugs in society.
As former heads of state from Africa, Europe and Latin America, we recognise the fear that many communities feel, and the distress of policymakers in dealing with drugs. Sadly, however, this distress has too often resulted in punitive drug policies based on repression with a view of completely ridding society of drugs.
This aim of creating a “drug-free society” has not always dominated the public and political landscape in Southeast Asia. In several countries, traditional uses of some drugs such as cannabis, opium or kratom were tolerated. Indeed, the current prohibitionist international drug control regime is largely a Western construct, based on the UN conventions and political declarations, advancing a “drug-free society” as an objective.
Thumbnail: CC Richard Madelo