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Crime Politics Science

World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use 474

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

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

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:56AM (#47488459) Journal

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

    It's been a rousing success for the law enforcement and prison industries though!

  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:05AM (#47488513)
    The problem is, once we get away from pot and other light drugs, the heavier ones have a pretty significant net economic cost. Historically, before our modern drug laws went insane, trying to get drugs out of a local community was a response to local economic collapses when things like opium were introduced to a region. Physically addictive drugs can be pretty devastating to a community as more workers exit the pool and more resources go to taking care of the addicts.
  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:05AM (#47488517) Homepage
    You want to ban video games now too?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:08AM (#47488533)

    Disagree. The point of legalizing drugs is to prevent an underground supply. The rationale is quite simple: You're not going to stop people from taking drugs. Someone is going to profit from supplying those drugs, so there is either going to be a legal source or an illegal source. A legal source is better than an illegal source.

    Anyone selling drugs should be required to inform the users about the risks and consequences. If you still want to take up an addictive drug, that's your own damn fault. It's been proven over and over again that you can't prevent people from taking drugs, so that cannot be the objective. The rational objective is to protect others from the effects of drug use (no second hand smoke, keeping intoxicated people off the streets, etc.)

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:16AM (#47488581) Homepage Journal

    No, this is the old "Reefer Madness" mentality, meant to make happy both the Puritans and the prison profiteers while keeping the politicians in an elevated state of power.

    What actually happens, and Portugal ran this experiment with a sample size of over 8 million people during the past decade, is that when drug use is decriminalized, the usage rate quickly falls to about half.

    Most of those are people who are no longer afraid to seek treatment. Some are folks who wind up court-ordered to get treatment, and a few were drug users who were only doing it because drugs seemed cool because they were illegal.

    At the end, though, the incontrovertible fact is that the community has half the number of drug users as it did under Prohibition. Prohibitionists are responsible for a doubling of the drug usage rate in the community. Does that seem counter-intuitive? So what? The data is in.

  • 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 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.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Saturday July 19, 2014 @10:48AM (#47488725) Homepage Journal
    Say a government wants to reduce harm without too much of a shock to the prison industry. Perhaps it could split the difference by approving medical diamorphine but giving the trademark on HEROIN® (diamorphine) back to Bayer. That way the feds could still go after street dealers for misusing the name "HEROIN".
  • 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.'

  • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rholtzjr ( 928771 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:23AM (#47488889) Journal

    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 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 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 jeIIomizer ( 3670945 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:32AM (#47488943)

    The rationale behind "not in public" isn't that I don't like it but that drug use has significant deteriorating effects on society and can thus not be allowed to become normal social behavior.

    Bullshit. Any truly free country would not infringe upon people's fundamental liberties in the name of safety. Also, have you ever heard of personal responsibility? If someone sees you doing drugs and wants to try them too, then that is *their* problem and no one else's. And I think there are constitutional problems with the drug war, and constitutional problems with banning public drug use.

    I have a better idea: Stop trying to control people and just leave them alone. That way, maybe we'll move closer to becoming 'the land of the free and the home of the brave' rather than 'the land of the unfree and the home of the worthless cowards who sacrifice freedom for safety.'

  • 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 beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:53AM (#47489033)

    The problem with smoking is not that it harms your health, it's that it harms other people's health, and makes other people's environment less pleasant to be in. That's why smoking is (typically) banned in public places, or near public buildings, but not banned in the comfort of your own home (that said, even there, it can have severe impacts on children/other members of your family).

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @11:56AM (#47489051) Homepage

    Talk to the Colombians and Mexicans to see how well that particular strategy has worked out

  • 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.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @01:17PM (#47489469) Homepage Journal

    Even if that's the case, how is any of that worse than what we have now?

  • by tarius8105 ( 683929 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @01:35PM (#47489587)
    So I guess driving is racist. I guess flying international is racist. I guess checking out a book at your local library is racist. Identification is not racism, it is identification of an individual.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @02:11PM (#47489761) Journal

    Yes, I see a problem with pot cafes. Drug use is not OK, just inevitable

    What about cafes that serve coffee? You know, the beverage containing a highly addictive drug? Should we ban those too?

    The issue with pot cafes is that it's hard for people to work in them without being exposed to passive smoke, but if you can address that then I don't see the difference between them and normal cafes.

  • 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.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982