US President Nixon launched the "war on drugs" in the 1970s. Today, incarceration, social marginalisation and drug-related deaths have led North America to rethink this strategy. However, although positive developments are happening locally in the fields of harm reduction, alternatives to incarceration, new drug law enforcement approaches and cannabis regulation, the US and Canadian federal governments remain resistant to drug policy reform.
According to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, states are obliged to respect the right to health of all persons including prisoners. Detention centres must, therefore, take action to avoid the transmission of COVID-19 in these closed environments.