By Anyone's Child, Families for safer drug control & Transform, Drug Policy Foundation

‘Drug prohibition’ is the global system under which the production, supply and sale of certain controlled substances are subject to strict criminal penalties and enforcement. There is nothing inevitable about this approach; rather it is the consequence of treaties that were established by the United Nations over fifty years ago, and which remain largely unchanged since. While prohibition remains the global norm, it places the entire drug market in the hands of organised crime. The illegal market is lucrative and is still expanding despite half a century of the so-called ‘drug war’. With no regulatory oversight, and no recourse to legal protection, the exploitation of children and vulnerable people has become a primary tool of many organised crime groups (OCGs) as they seek to maximise profit and evade law enforcement. We believe that this must change. By legally regulating the drug market – putting production and supply under strict controls – both the opportunity and profit motive for human exploitation in the drug trade will diminish, undermining the power of OCGs and reducing the risks to vulnerable people.

The prohibition of drugs has long been justified on the grounds that it protects young and vulnerable people. Its supporters claim that, by criminalising people who use and supply drugs, we can reduce consumption and keep people safe. But experience of the past 50 years demonstrates that prohibition cannot achieve these aims, and in fact actively undermines them.