The global narrative on the war on drugs has shifted. A growing number of governments are moving towards embracing a public health approach to drugs and are turning away from using the criminal law and punishment as the primary strategy to address drug problems. Canada has an opportunity to play a key leadership role in this shift, one that will see new approaches to drugs based on public health, human rights and science. To do this our federal government will have to change direction.

Over the past 10 years, the Canadian government has doubled down on a “war on drugs” approach by implementing mandatory minimum sentencing for low level drug offenses, spending millions of dollars fighting cannabis policy reform, ramping up expenditures on prisons and passing legislation that obstructs the development of new harm reduction programs like supervised consumption services. It’s time to take a new approach.

United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs 2016 (UNGASS)

The Coalition is taking an active role internationally in addressing the harms of our current drug policy. We’ve been selected as one of the North American representatives in the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF) to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in April 2016. The CSTF is one of the key mechanisms for civil society around the world to have input into this important meeting. This will be the first comprehensive global conversation on drug policy in almost 20 years, and it’s impact could set the groundwork for significant policy changes in the next few years.

The UNGASS is a critical opportunity for Canada to push for change at the international level. CDPC is working with civil society organizations in Canada to develop a set of policy recommendations that we will urge our federal government to bring forward in the lead up to the UNGASS meeting and during the special session.

Through a series of consultations and meetings, international drug policy reform advocates have coalesced around a series of “asks” for the UNGASS meeting that reflect the drug policy reform agenda:

  • The drug control system is broken and in need of reform.
  • Success should be measured by factors that affect individual and community well-being: health, human rights, access to medicines, security, and development.
  • The death penalty should never be imposed for drug offenses.
  • Neither drug possession nor use should be criminalized.
  • By 2020, 10% of global resources expended on drug policies should be invested in health and harm reduction.
  • Drug policy reform should reflect human rights based, evidence-informed experimentation and innovation

Next April 19 – 21st 2016 people from all over the world working to change the direction of global drug policy will converge on the United Nations in New York City and call for governments to take a new approach to drugs globally – an approach that highlights science, public health and human rights. CDPC and our partners internationally have worked to launch a global campaign for reform in the lead up to the UNGASS 2016. This campaign brings voices of change from around the world together in one place and calls for countries coming to the UNGASS to “Stop The Harm” and end the current approach.

Resources on International Drug Policy Reform and UNGASS