Former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss, who co-authored one of the articles, writes that organized crime now generates $320 billion a year, and that despite 50 years of prohibition, the war on drugs has “been unable to curb either supply or demand at global or local levels.”
She therefore calls for governments to decriminalize all illicit drugs, creating regulated markets, adding that “drug use and possession should not be penalized with any criminal or civil action, and alternatives to punishment, such as counseling, community service, or educational workshops, should be developed for all low level actors in the drug trade.”
In another article, British politicians including former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urge governments around the world to follow the example of Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalized in 2001. As a consequence, overdose deaths fell by more than two-thirds in the decade leading up to 2012.
While several US states have now taken steps in the right direction by legalizing recreational and medical cannabis, the BMJ is calling on more nations to follow Portugal’s lead and bring an end to the harms created by the war on drugs.
Lack of access to clean syringes means many drug users end up sharing needles. Diego Cervo/Shutterstock