Over the past 60 years, governments have embarked on a global ‘war on drugs’ which has entirely failed to achieve its stated goal of a ‘drug-free world’. Instead, these policies have only succeeded in stimulating highly coercive state responses that prioritise surveillance, punishment and criminalisation while increasing harms.
It is estimated that one-fifth of the world’s prison population is deprived of liberty for drug ‘offences’, while drug law enforcement leads to millions of stops and arrests annually.
This punitive focus is costly and harmful - for those criminalised, their families, and their communities.
Criminalisation is a driver of marginalisation, trauma and risks. It disproportionately harms people already surviving multiple forms of oppression: economic deprivation, patriarchal violence, racism, ableism, serophobia, just to name a few.
Moreover, drug law enforcement is often weaponised by governments as a means for social control, providing cover for repression against political dissidents, and others deemed ‘undesirable’ or ‘expendable’.
Punitive responses also syphon resources away from what our communities really need and rightfully deserve: access to adequate healthcare, nourishing food, stable housing, sustainable livelihoods and caring environments.
This briefing provides an overview of the key questions that drug decriminalisation advocates should consider to mobilise for and demand reform.