Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Guidance on interpreting the UN Drug Conventions

Drug policy is now part of a debate at UN level, and a review of  the UN Drug Conventions on Drugs will begin at the UN General Assembly in September and culminate in the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy in March 2016 where Member States will be considering a number of policy approaches. As a contribution to that debate the APPG has published Guidance on a flexible interpretation of the Drug Conventions which demonstrates the extent to which reform of national drug policies can be accommodated within current Conventions.

The guidance has been prepared by the Group with the support of officials and experts from Latin America and Europe. It provides a radical re-interpretation of the Conventions.  


It is not, for example, justified to violate human rights in the quest to comply with the conventions on drugs. Blanket aerial coca crop eradication in rural areas is unacceptable when this leaves families and whole communities without access to clean water or a livelihood.

Likewise, denying terminally ill people access to essential pain relieving medicines, in the interests of upholding the UN drug conventions cannot be justified.   And yet this is commonplace in 160 UN Member States.   In total, 5.5 billion people, including 5.5 million with terminal cancer live in countries with low or non-existent access to controlled medicines.  

Across the Globe, children and young people are being criminalised for using small quantities of drugs.   This prohibitionist approach to use leads to greater use of the most dangerous Class A drugs; higher levels of addiction and long term damage to the prospects of the children and young people affected


The UN drug conventions permit drug supply and possession for ‘medical and scientific purposes.  The Guidance proposes that a modern interpretation of the term 'scientific purposes' enables drug reforms to be introduced and evaluated, thus contributing to creating a new experimental and evidential ethos and improving the knowledge base on the efficacy of drug policies. 

To read the full guidance click Guidance on Interpreting the UN Conventions

The Guidance references two legal opinions prepared for the All-Party Group by a senior UK barrister, Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC. The first prepared with Sarah Clarke QC concerns the UN Drug Conventions - Room for Flexibility, the second deals with the issue of Regulated Markets for Cannabis.

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