By From Poverty to Power

Why don’t more mainstream aid organizations work on the issue of illegal drugs like cannabis, coca or opium poppy? We’ve known for decades that the prevalent approach to these – prohibition – harms small-scale farmers that grow them, fuels violence, undermines the rule of law and contaminates politics (the UN estimates the illegal drugs trade is worth $500bn a year – that buys you a lot of politicians).

I focussed on this ‘why change doesn’t happen’ topic in my 7 minutes of fame on a panel last week, organized by a logotastic smorgasbord of thinktanks and NGOs in the ‘drug policy’ community. The other speakers were making an impassioned case for ‘legal regulation’ (we don’t call it legalization/decriminalization any more, apparently) as an alternative to prohibition, including launching these rather good 20 principles for how to approach it.

Helen Clark, who has just taken over as Chair of Global Commission on Drug Policy kicked off with a summary of the case for treating drugs as a development and health issue, and concluded ‘‘we see no justification for any punishment for drug use’. Blimey.

My question was, why aren’t more development organizations listening?