The legal regulation of drugs is rapidly moving from the theoretical to the practical domain. Regulation is a critical part of drug policy reform if the harms of prohibition and the illegal drug market are to be reduced but remains a particularly challenging element of the public and political debate. Progress requires engaging with legitimate public concerns about how regulation might be implemented and what its impacts will be, as well as political opposition and institutional inertia.

Regulation and management of risky products and behaviors is a key function of government authorities across the world. It is the norm in almost all areas of policy and law – except drug policy. Regulation addresses the reality of risk in our lives and our communities and is all around us: product safety regulations that require flame-retardant mattresses; food regulations that require “sell-by” dates on labels; regulation of which vehicles can be driven, how fast, and where, and so on.

This report addresses the reality that over 250 million people around the world are taking risks by consuming currently prohibited drugs. Accepting this reality and putting in place an effective regulatory strategy to manage it is neither admitting defeat nor condoning drug use. It is part of a responsible, evidence-based approach that deals with the world as it is in contrast with ideologically driven and ultimately counterproductive attempts to create a “drug free world”.

The report identifies key questions that, in the Commission’s experience, have become particular stumbling blocks in the progress of the public dialogue on regulation. By engaging with these questions directly, the report aims to facilitate and encourage the debate, thus bringing this much needed reform nearer.