Health Poverty Action supports a reassessment of the War on Drugs
Since the mid-twentieth century, global drug policy has been dominated by strict prohibition with the use of law enforcement to try and reduce the supply of illicit drugs. This approach, which has come to be known as the ‘War on Drugs’, hasn’t worked.2 Jan 2015
Since the mid-twentieth century, global drug policy has been dominated by strict prohibition with the use of law enforcement to try and reduce the supply of illicit drugs.
This approach, which has come to be known as the ‘War on Drugs’, hasn’t worked. Instead it has fuelled poverty and failed some of the poorest and most marginalised communities worldwide.
The War on Drugs…
Undermines democratic governance. The power and influence of drug cartels severely weakens states. The culture of fear and corruption can make it almost impossible for citizens to exercise democratic influence, access their rights, and hold officials to account for essential public services such as health and education.
Diverts attention and resources from essential services. Many governments in poor countries are engaged in constant civil war with the drug cartels. It is a war they are ill-equipped to win, with the cartels often having access to far greater financial resources. The costs of waging this war, both financial and in terms of dominating the political agenda, again leave little for public services such as health care.
Wastes global finance. The worldwide cost of waging the War on Drugs is estimated at $100 billion a year. This is approaching the same amount as the global aid budget (currently $130 billion).
Causes pollution and deforestation. The persecution of drugs producers involves the regular eradication of crops, followed by deforestation when production is relocated. This can be particularly harmful to indigenous communities and biodiversity.
Results in lost tax revenue (worldwide). Illegal drug markets are not taxed. If, for example, cannabis was taxed in the way that alcohol and tobacco is, then large sums could be raised – including in developing countries – to help fund health care and other vital public services.
Criminalises small farmers and users. The potential consequences of being discovered breaking the law, prevents both users and small farmers from using state services like health care and police protection. It also makes harm reduction work much more difficult.
Undermines sustainable agriculture and local food production. Drug production displaces small farmers from more sustainable and valuable agriculture, such as local food production.
Increases local drug use and associated health problems. A cheap local supply in developing countries inevitably leads to high levels of local use. In many places smaller farmers are paid with drugs rather than money. Health Poverty Action has pioneered cross-border harm reduction work with people who use drugs in China/Myanmar.
Health Poverty Action is concerned that current drugs policies are causing immense suffering in poor countries, and denying poor and marginalised people their health rights.