As the 2024 Midterm Review of the UN’s 2019 Ministerial Declaration on drugs approaches, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) unveils a revealing Shadow Report focused on the progress and challenges faced. The 2019 Ministerial Declaration set forth a 10-year plan to address global drug issues, yet the Shadow Report asserts that, as of 2023, little, incomplete, or no progress has been made in achieving its objectives.
The report argues that policies aimed at prohibiting and eradicating drugs have shown little efficacy in reducing illegal drug markets, connecting with human insecurity, violence, and organised crime. Moreover, it emphasises that the punitive paradigm advocated by global drug control has undermined the aims of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration, including health, human rights, and sustainable development.
In particular, the report points out the increasing role of digital technologies in illegal drug markets, with the dark web evolving despite efforts to curtail it. It raises concerns about the lack of global data on drug-related deaths since 2019, noting a surge in opioid use, particularly in North America.
Furthermore, the report highlights the human rights impacts of drug control, stressing that the documented number of people executed for drug offences has risen significantly. The global prison population continues to grow, with over one in five people incarcerated for a drug offence.
On a positive note, the Shadow Report acknowledges the growing recognition of the therapeutic value of cannabis. Since 2019, at least 18 countries have adopted laws or policies facilitating access to cannabis-based medicines, and cannabis has been removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Drugs.
The report identifies blind spots in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration concerning cannabis, urging a re-evaluation of the potential of legal regulation, acknowledgement of the role of surveillance technologies, the breaking of taboos on harm reduction, racial justice in policymaking, decolonisation, guidance on the legal regulation of drugs, and the recognition of environmental damage associated with drug policy.
In light of these findings, the IDPC offers recommendations for the 2024 mid-term review, encouraging the integration of normative developments, recognising overarching objectives of health, human rights, equality, and non-discrimination, and updating challenges to reflect new developments, including those related to cannabis.
For a structural reform of the global drug control regime, the IDPC recommends a multi-stakeholder mechanism to review the UN drug conventions, emphasising health, development, and human rights. UN bodies are encouraged to provide evidence-based guidance on implementing the legal regulation of cannabis, and international standards on human rights and cannabis policy are urged for updating.
As cannabis legalisation gains momentum globally, the IDPC's report becomes a crucial document in steering policy discussions towards a more comprehensive, evidence-based, and human-rights-centred approach to cannabis regulation. The shadows over cannabis policies need careful consideration, and the report calls for a re-evaluation to align with the evolving landscape of cannabis use and acceptance.