Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Illicit Drug Policy

Consider legalising drugs despite UN treaties, says influential commission

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 29 April 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2474
  1. Richard Hurley, features and debates editor, The BMJ
  1. rhurley{at}

Many countries are already looking beyond the prohibitive stance of the “war on drugs,” which is widely seen as a harmful and costly failure. Richard Hurley reports from New York

Countries should consider breaching their international obligations and move to regulate legal markets to reduce the harm associated with taking illicit drugs, a high profile panel said last week.

The former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, and Switzerland, former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, businessman Richard Branson, and others said that countries should “experiment” with their policies related to drugs like heroin, cocaine, and cannabis.

Representing the pressure group the Global Commission on Drug Policy, they made the call on 21 April 2016 to coincide with the conclusion of a special session of the United Nations general assembly (UNGASS) in New York City to discuss the “world drug problem.”

More humane and evidence based

“Several countries and some US states are exploring regulation in a more humane and evidence-based manner,” the commissioners wrote in a statement. “These approaches should be encouraged despite the restrictive language of the UN drug conventions.”1

They also expressed their “profound disappointment” and …

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