So far, a bad year for drug policy?

The 26th June is the International Day against Drug Abuse. It is a day that embodies laws and policies that have criminalised, subjugated, excluded, and violated the human rights of people who use drugs and the communities in which they live. It is a day that stands for an ideology that has done untold harms. And it is a day that perhaps well-reflects a difficult half-year in global drug policy.

Not least of all was the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs 2016, with the UNGASS outcome document failing to take into account the needs and human rights of people who use drugs. Indonesia has announced plans for a new round of executions for drug-related offences, while the Philippines' President-elect has made the horrific call for people who use and/or sell drugs to be killed extrajudicially, both by citizens and the police. Then there was the UK introducing a blanket ban on all psychoactive substances.

Exclusion, Violence, Discrimination

Though it seems that in many corners of the world things are moving backwards, though the exclusion of the voices of people who use drugs in the formation of law and policy has continued, though the violence, stigma, and discrimination to which people who use drugs are subject have been encouraged, though the criminalisation of people who use drugs in some regions has been ramped up, we must persevere.

On this day, the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) emphasises that people who use drugs are not the problem. We are a fundamental part of the solution, a solution to the so-called ‘world drugs problem’. The problem is not drugs themselves, nor the people who use them. The problem is driven by punitive prohibition; it is driven by criminalisation; it is driven by stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, and violence; it is driven by a systemic denial of human rights to people who use drugs and their communities. And things are beginning to move in the right direction. More countries than ever before are pushing in the direction of drug policy reform; momentum is building for positive change, for an end to prohibition.

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