Johns Hopkins-Led Commission Urges Drug Decriminalization

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The so-called War on Drugs has had a negative effect on public health, both in the United States and across the globe, according to a report from a public health commission headed up by Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health in partnership with The Lancet.

The members of the commission reviewed published evidence about drugs and drug policy; they also conducted their own analysis on drug-related violence, disease, and incarceration. They came to the conclusion that drug policies, as they currently stand, do much more harm than good, and that drug policy largely ignores years of research about how to actually have a positive impact. With that in mind, the commission called for:

  • The decriminalization of minor and non-violent drug use, possession and petty sale
  • Enactment of policies that reduce violence and discrimination in drug policing
  • Increased access to controlled medicines that could reduce the risk of overdose deaths
  • Greater investments in health and social services for drug users

“The goal of prohibiting all use, possession, production, and trafficking of illicit drugs is the basis of many of our national drug laws, but these policies are based on ideas about drug use and drug dependence that are not scientifically grounded,” Bloomberg School epidemiology professor Chris Beyrer said. “The global war on drugs has harmed public health, human rights, and development. It’s time for us to rethink our approach to global drug policies, and put scientific evidence and public health at the heart of drug policy discussions.”

Will such straight talk from some of the world’s most respected medical institutions make a difference? It’s hard to say–particularly in an election year.

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