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World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use 474

Posted by Soulskill
from the WHO-already-dismissed-by-old-people-as-being-a-bunch-of-potheads dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've known for a while: the War on Drugs isn't working. Scientists, journalists, economists, and politicians have all argued against continuing the expensive and ineffective fight. Now, the World Health Organization has said flat out that nations should work to decriminalize the use of drugs. The recommendations came as part of a report released this month focusing on the prevention and treatment of HIV. "The WHO's unambiguous recommendation is clearly grounded in concerns for public health and human rights. Whilst the call is made in the context of the policy response to HIV specifically, it clearly has broader ramifications, specifically including drug use other than injecting. In the report, the WHO says: 'Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration. ...Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs." The bottom line is that the criminalization of drug use comes with substantial costs, while providing no substantial benefit.
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World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use

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  • Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:47AM (#47488423) Journal
    This is one of the most messed-up issues in the history of humanity. Hopefully we'll see an end to the insane war on drugs in our lifetime! Drugs are made more dangerous by being illegal, I don't know why so few of us in the United States didn't learn the lesson from alcohol prohibition.
    • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Informative)

      by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:56AM (#47488465) Homepage
      It might cause a few deaths but it also sustains the multi billion dollar prison industry and employs well over 1 million people in the US alone, and that it just counting the lawfully employed.

      The government profits from illegal drugs even more than drug cartels do.
      • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by David_Hart (1184661) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:39AM (#47488687)

        It might cause a few deaths but it also sustains the multi billion dollar prison industry and employs well over 1 million people in the US alone, and that it just counting the lawfully employed.

        The government profits from illegal drugs even more than drug cartels do.

        The reality is that law enforcement, and other areas of the government, used the war on drugs as justification for increased budget, manpower, weapons, laws (search & seizure), etc. Now that the justification has moved towards terrorism, both real and based on hype, and the drug war isn't needed any more. In fact, most law enforcement agencies now have bigger and more expensive toys today (i.e. drones, highly weaponized SWAT teams, etc.) based on terrorism.

        As you said, the one lobby that NEEDS the war on drugs to continue is the US prison industry. From Wikipedia "Drug related charges accounted for more than half the rise in state prisoners. The result, 31 million people have been arrested on drug related charges, approximately 1 in 10 Americans." Granted, a good portion of this includes people who are violent criminals and are also booked on drug charges. However, there can be no denying that if 1 in 10 people are going to jail based on a single type of crime, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate public policies and whether these activities should be considered crimes.
         

        • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:45AM (#47488991) Homepage

          Granted, a good portion of this includes people who are violent criminals and are also booked on drug charges.

          But that number does not include the likely bigger number of people driven into other crimes because of the illegal nature of their drug addiction. The illegal drug trade not only puts some mostly innocent people in a compromised position, but also fuels the vast majority of crime.

          • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by transporter_ii (986545) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @02:13PM (#47489769) Homepage

            If someone breaks into a house, they should be in jail for breaking into a house. I know plenty of people who do drugs and *don't* break into houses or commit other crimes. Also, the high prices are driven by the prohibition of drugs. If they were more affordable, it becomes much less of an issue to break into houses or cars to get money.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rholtzjr (928771)

        I agree with your comments on this as well. What would we do with all the prison space currently housed by drug-related occupants? That would put a heavy dent in the income of the organizations that manage the prison systems (which are mostly cronies of the politicians). And once the dent is made in their profits, they would lobby to elevate the penalty of some other illegal act to put the profits back into their pockets, say jaywalking or driving while texting is a now mandatory 90 days in prison.

        • by ganjadude (952775)
          low income housing??
        • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by PrimaryConsult (1546585) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @01:50PM (#47489683)

          I had a silly idea regarding this while visiting California last year. If you've ever walked the streets of either SF or LA at night, you will undoubtedly have found an experience with the homeless similar to that of a zombie movie, except instead of chanting "brains" they're chanting "change". So, once the war on drugs has been ended, some prisons could be converted to compulsory overnight housing: if you do not have a permanent address, and are found unconscious in a public location (either due to sleep or whatever), you get a free bus ride to a former prison for a good night's sleep. The same buses could take you back to the city you were picked up in the morning if you so desire, or you can stick around for 3 hots and a cot (maybe some job counseling and medical care), grab a later bus, whatever. The only prison industry jobs lost would be guard-related. All the administrative, catering, medical, and transport jobs would be retained. Some homeless people have a slightly better life (many of them are too proud/stupid/mentally ill to ask for help but if forced, they'd accept it), and American cities would have an overall better quality of life for all involved.

        • Re:Finally! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dcollins117 (1267462) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:37PM (#47491231)

          That would put a heavy dent in the income of the organizations that manage the prison systems (which are mostly cronies of the politicians).

          Everyone making money off the status quo will fight tooth and nail to maintain it. That's a given. New crimes are being defined all the time, the one that pops into my mind first is unauthorized use of computers. And just try to exercise your first amendment right to protest within earshot of the president.

          Since Orwell's 1984 has been spot on so far, my guess is that the next activity to be made illegal is any attempt to maintain privacy. Seems to be the way the winds are blowing, anyway.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        It might cause a few deaths but it also sustains the multi billion dollar prison industry and employs well over 1 million people in the US alone

        None of those jobs help the economy. Why should people be employed in occupations that have no benefit to society whatever and are in fact detrimental to society?

        The government profits from illegal drugs even more than drug cartels do.

        Colorado's pot legalization and the multi-billion dollar alcohol industry shows that governments profit a lot more from legal, regula

        • by Fjandr (66656)

          They profit from them, but do not derive the same sort of power from them. That's why politicians and cops and prosecutors and corrections officers love criminalization of things everyday people do ... well ... every day.

      • Occam's razor. No need for conspiracy theories. Drugs are illegal because the vast majority of voters want them illegal, except in very recent times marijuana. And, no shocker, as soon as public opinion on marijuana shifted, so did the laws start to shift. And, no shocker, where public opinion shifted first, the laws shifted first. And where they have not yet shifted sufficiently, the laws have not shifted.

        No need for conspiracy theories.

    • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

      by strikethree (811449) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:32AM (#47488947) Journal

      Hopefully we'll see an end to the insane war on drugs in our lifetime!

      No no no! If you are even slightly "high" you can not be pure and one with God. We absolutely MUST fight against the recreational use of chemicals, any chemicals, that might in any way lead to a sense of euphoria. Life is pain. Pain is suffering. It is only through suffering that we can be close to God. Drugs and drug use is absolute evil. We must go to ANY means necessary to prevent their use.

      Drugs are made more dangerous by being illegal

      Who cares? It is only the evil people that will be affected. It will afflict them with suffering and as we already established, it is only through suffering that we can be close to God.

      I don't know why so few of us in the United States didn't learn the lesson from alcohol prohibition.

      In the 1920s we did not have Echelon and TIA. The NSA and FBI have it all covered now. You can expect a reinstatement of prohibition rather soon. The only lesson that was learned from Prohibition is that without effective enforcement, the evil sinners will continue to seduce the righteous.

      Look, everything is in place for 100% enforcement. All of the sinners will be removed from society so that the righteous will not be distracted from becoming closer to God through suffering. 100% focus on work will ensure that the righteous never stray from the True Path. There will be Heaven on Earth... or Nuclear Apocalypse. It is up to you as to what happens. If you follow the one True Path, there will be pleasure in the afterlife when you have finished toiling and suffering in this fallen world. If you sin, this fallen world will be destroyed so that all may meet their Final Judgement soon.

      All of this absurd talk of weakening the battle for your soul is the work of the devil. The fight will not merely continue, it will intensify! The fate of the entire world is at stake.

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      I would except the recreational drugs have to meet the same USDA and FDA standards for purity and safety for foodstuffs, legal drugs, and alcoholic beverages. In short, the cannabis you can buy legally must NOT have any potentially dangerous additives and THC levels per gram of cannabis have to be standardized. In short, welcome to the real world if you want to grow legal cannabis.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        Not standardized, but labelled. Alcohol comes in various proofs, not at a standard proof. But it's labelled. This is reasonable.

        As for safety...I don't think a drug being dangerous (to the user) is reason to forbid its sale. It might be reason to forbid it being an ingredient in something else, I'd need to think about that for awhile. But the danger needs to be clearly stated on the label.

        What I'm not sure about at all is which drugs one should be allowed to advertise. I'm not sure that ANY should, bu

    • Drugs are made more dangerous by being illegal

      Not really, it depends what you mean by "illegal". Bear with me... Personally think illegality sends a good signal for kids - drugs are bad, m'key? - but the *punishment* is the question. Allowing police to arrest a user means these things:

      1. For young people, parents get to know what their child is doing
      2. Police can get the name of the *dealer* from the user
      3. The user can be placed in mandatory rehab as "punishment".
      4. If rehab isn't necessary, then the only punishment is a small fine.

      User gets a slap on

  • by Tanuki64 (989726) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:52AM (#47488439)

    ...if its goal was to prevent drug usage.

  • No public drug use (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:52AM (#47488443)

    No ads, no public displays of drug use, no public drug use, not even in designated public venues, and no brown paper bag bullshit either. Keep it private. No operating heavy machinery or participation in traffic while intoxicated. But yeah, the drug use itself should not be criminal.

    • by itsenrique (846636) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:48AM (#47488727)

      No ads, no public displays of drug use, no public drug use, not even in designated public venues, and no brown paper bag bullshit either. Keep it private. No operating heavy machinery or participation in traffic while intoxicated. But yeah, the drug use itself should not be criminal.

      No ads? OK, sounds reasonable. No public display? OK, we don't allow this for alcohol EXCEPT in designated venues. Do you see a problem with pot cafes? Or methadone clinics? If by public you mean on the street OK, but if you mean no consumption anywhere except the home this contradicts how we treat alcohol. No brown paper bag bullshit? Well you don't usually drink drugs, so OK. No operating machinery or participating in traffic while intoxicated? OK, although proving this for many drugs is much more challenging than alcohol. Example: marijuana.

    • by jeIIomizer (3670945) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:07AM (#47488815)

      No ads, no public displays of drug use, no public drug use, not even in designated public venues, and no brown paper bag bullshit either.

      Well, if you don't want to do any of that or pay attention to it, then feel free not to. However, just because you don't like it doesn't mean it should be banned.

  • Safe injection sites (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:59AM (#47488477)
    We're seeing more places around the world with so called "safe injection sites" which seem to be helping people's safety. I've often wondered if it idea was taken a step further. Create safe haven drug houses, drugs are free, safe from impurities etc provided by the government (likely far cheaper than current policing costs). But you have to stay in a small padded room with nothing to do until the drugs leave your system, and be monitored by nurses. Would they be very popular? Would this all but eliminate the illegal drug trade if drugs were free and safe? I would think for all but the worst addicts, the novelty would be gone, and they would hopefully move on in life.
    • by Razed By TV (730353) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:46AM (#47488719)
      I've been thinking along these lines for a few years now. Make the drugs legal, regulate them, and possibly even have the government sell them. Use taxes on drugs to fund rehab programs. Give sex workers a way to get out from drug induced slavery. Cut the head off the cocaine cartel by growing it here or importing it from someone else. Take a blow to the coffers of street gangs as well as more organized criminals.

      The obvious number one downside is the potential for an increase in number of addicts. I never really had the answer for how to counter that. Social stigma? Government monitoring program on those who buy from the "drug store" that encourages rehabilitation? But maybe if you make the harder drugs extra affordable in an outpatient setting like you describe, it offers a way out for the addicts, while making it inconvenient for dabblers and college kids to get into the really nasty stuff. You could still sell (and tax, of course) the less addictive/destructive drugs, as you would alcohol and tobacco.

      And bonus points if this reduces violent crime rates by people trying to get money to fuel their need.
      • I've been thinking along these lines for a few years now. Make the drugs legal, regulate them, and possibly even have the government sell them. Use taxes on drugs to fund rehab programs. Give sex workers a way to get out from drug induced slavery. Cut the head off the cocaine cartel by growing it here or importing it from someone else. Take a blow to the coffers of street gangs as well as more organized criminals.

        The obvious number one downside is the potential for an increase in number of addicts. I never really had the answer for how to counter that.

        The number of addicts decreases when you legalize drugs. No need to speculate, look at places that have actually legalized drugs. It seems counterintuitive, but the reason is pretty simple. Right now if you're addicted to something and you seek help you have to basically admit to being a criminal in order to get help. If drugs are legal - no problem. So people are more likely to ask for help when they don't have to risk jail by asking for help. Makes sense when you think about it.

  • The social cost off allowing the use of certain drugs (alcohol and marihuana for sure, maybe a few others) is preferable to to the cost of trying to ban them. But anyone who thinks legalizing drugs like cocaine or opiates will reduce street crime is living in a dream world; take away selling drugs to earn a living and it will be replaced by a different crime.
    • It's very unlikely that the different crime would be as rewarding financially.

      The current situation results in huge flows of money into criminal organizations to the point where it destabilizes governments and funds massive corruption. Particularly in South and Central America.

      One of the major items in the current news is the flood of children from central america into the US. What is the root cause of this? The flow of money from the US to drug cartels in their countries of origin.

      Fix the drug problem in t

  • The use of drugs is not exactly confined in its impact to the immediate use, which is the theory behind why it was a crime in the first place. But the other bad effects can be made illegal separately. A lot of them already are, in the form of some variation of practising pharmacy without a licence. And if a huge pharmaceutical company creates a drug that has virtually no value other than to create addictions (and deducts all the research and marketing expenses on its taxes), then someone should be going

    • Re:Use of drugs (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rockoon (1252108) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:23AM (#47488893)

      The use of drugs is not exactly confined in its impact to the immediate use, which is the theory behind why it was a crime in the first place.

      No, the theory behind the first drug laws in the United States was that chinese immigrants smoked opium, so the consumption of opium via smoking was prohibited while oral consumption (the white peoples consumption method) remained legal. A racist law written by racist people to harm a racial group.

      Drug laws continue to be completely racist, even though the excuses for the laws no longer are. When it wasn't racism against the chinese-americans, it was racism against the african-americans...

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:29AM (#47488643) Homepage

    When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.

    - John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 1932

  • by Calavar (1587721) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:40AM (#47488697)

    Ending prohibition didn't kill the mob. They just switched from bootlegging to trafficking narcotics, and they reached the height of their power in the 50s and 60s, long after the prohibition ended. In the same way, while legalizing marijuana might reduce crime here in the US, cartels in Mexico are Too Big to Fail [nytimes.com]. They won't pack up their things and head home quietly if marijuana is legalized; they'll just start peddling something new.

    As for legalizing highly addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin, I don't see how decriminalizing them good possibly be a good idea. The addiction rate for these drugs is 2.5 to 3 times that of alcohol. Heroin, etc. are dangerous and they weren't just banned because of moralizers.

    • by jeIIomizer (3670945) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:19AM (#47488873)

      Heroin, etc. are dangerous and they weren't just banned because of moralizers.

      The 'land of the free and the home of the brave' would not violate people's fundamental liberties for safety. These things are banned because of freedom-hating scumbags who despise the thought of living in a truly free country, and yet pretend that that is their goal. But we have the TSA, the NSA's mass surveillance, constitution-free zones, free speech zones, protest permits, DUI checkpoints, mass warrantless surveillance, unrestricted border searches, and a number of other policiies or agencies that violate the constitution and people's fundamental rights (thanks to people like you), so of course we've never been 'the land of the free.'

      • by Calavar (1587721)

        But we have the TSA, the NSA's mass surveillance, constitution-free zones, free speech zones, protest permits, DUI checkpoints, mass warrantless surveillance, unrestricted border searches, and a number of other policiies or agencies that violate the constitution and people's fundamental rights (thanks to people like you)

        So the fact that you need a prescription from a doctor to get penicillin, is that a violation of your fundamental rights? Hell yeah, I should be allowed to eat penicillin and Oxycontin for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No goddamn elitist doctor is going to tell me otherwise. Same with BAC limits for driving. I know how much alcohol I can handle and no goddamn state trooper is going to tell me that .08 is the "legal limit." Lets do away with speed limits and other traffic regulations as well. All they do is

        • by blindseer (891256)

          Nice straw man you've built.

          I don't like drunk driving laws because I don't care how much alcohol you've consumed so long as you keep your car in your lane and yield the right of way at intersections. As for speed limits? I've seen studies that suggest people drive more safely without posted speed limits. People drive to conditions and the pace of traffic rather than to some government contrived safe limit.

          My right to mustard gas is protected under the second amendment dammit!

          I believe that the people should be able to own any weapon the military and police are allowed to o

    • by pauljlucas (529435) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:28AM (#47488925) Homepage Journal

      As for legalizing highly addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin, I don't see how decriminalizing them [could] possibly be a good idea.

      As someone else pointed out: as counter-intuitive as it might be, the data is in since Portugal ran the experiment [time.com].

      • by Calavar (1587721)

        Interesting. I wish I could read the linked study, but it's blocked by a pay wall. The summary mentions that Portugal decriminalized all drugs, but then it goes on to just talk about marijuana. It does mention that there was drop in HIV transmission but concedes that these could have been due to expanded treatment instead of decriminalization. They also mentioned that there were "more drugs seized by law enforcement," which makes me wonder if drugs were completely decriminalized. Overall, I'm not sure that

    • As for legalizing highly addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin, I don't see how decriminalizing them good possibly be a good idea. d

      It may not be a 'good' idea. It may simply be less bad that keeping them criminalized. Addiction is a medical diagnosis and it makes more sense to keep it in the medical sphere than the criminal one. Being addicted to anything is bad for you (that's inherent in the term). The consequences of that addiction can be modified by decriminalizing the drug (but keeping it regulated). Nobody but nobody is suggesting that we just drop cocaine packets from the sky. Well, perhaps a few folks might like that.....

      The addiction rate for these drugs is 2.5 to 3 times that of alcohol. Heroin, etc. are dangerous and they weren't just banned because of moralizers.

      C

    • Ending prohibition didn't kill the mob. They just switched from bootlegging to trafficking narcotics, and they reached the height of their power in the 50s and 60s, long after the prohibition ended.

      Well... by this thinking, the mob continued because prohibition didn't end. They moved from one prohibited product to another, but always a product the people wanted, but couldn't get because of a prohibition, and the mob was in a particularly good position (with their organization and international reach) to supply.

      In the same way, while legalizing marijuana might reduce crime here in the US, cartels in Mexico are Too Big to Fail [nytimes.com]. They won't pack up their things and head home quietly if marijuana is legalized; they'll just start peddling something new.

      What might happen if the cartels' market dried up is, at best, speculation. Could be risky, change is scary. But doing nothing and maintaining the status quo is worse. The cartels continue t

  • by cphilo (768807) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:42AM (#47488703)
    Here is a recipe from my great-grandma's cookbook. Cough Syrup Syrup of squills four ounces, syrup of tolu four ounces, tincture of bloodroot one and one-half ounces, camphorated tincture of opium four ounces. Mix. Dose for an adult, one teaspoon repeated every two to four hours. She used to be able to go to the pharmacist and get tincture of opium.
  • by ryanw (131814) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:44AM (#47488713)

    I was initially hesitant with the legalization of pot in California and the other states. But what's fascinating is that now people get their weed from controlled environments instead some back alley with a drug dealer pushing lots of other stuff as well.

    I could be 1000% wrong as I have no data to back this up, but it made me think the streets have been safer in California since the legalization of pot. Anyone have any data to back that idea up? Any stats of declining use of other more serious drugs? Maybe it hasn't been enough time yet?

  • by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:27AM (#47488919)

    You can be addicted just as easily to legal drugs as to any substance on the federal schedule. You can be addicted to behaviors like gambling and eating. This problem needs to be addressed medically.

    • by msobkow (48369) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @12:12PM (#47489139) Homepage Journal

      Even addiction is not a problem. Back in the day when opium was legal, many people were addicted to it. But they had ready access to a cheap supply of their drug of choice, so they were able to function in society, hold down a job, etc.

      Caffeine is another good example. Lots of people are addicted to caffeine, but function in society.

      Even tobacco (evil though it is) has functional addicts.

      The point is that it's not addiction itself that is a problem, but the stigmatization of addicts by society and the crimes they're forced to commit to feed black market pricing. Put an opiate addict on a methadone program, and they stop breaking into houses to feed their habit.

      Addiction is not a *good* thing, but it should be a personal choice and health issue, not an excuse for ostracizing someone from society.

  • You think civil forfeiture and revenues from private prisons are of no substantial benefit to US law enforcement's cash flow? -- sincerely yours, your unfriendly neigborhood cop.
  • by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:55PM (#47491699) Homepage Journal

    The WHO recommendation is like a drug cartel/warlord's worst nightmare come true.

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