A new deal on drugs is as vital as a climate change accord

So writes Nick Clegg with the Czech Prime Minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, in The Guardian:

We all know that drug use can cause great damage to individuals, their families and communities. Drug addiction can be miserable, debilitating, and often fatal. And a profitable illegal market only strengthens the organised crime groups that we fight so hard to contain.We want to get to grips with these problems…

[But] the “war on drugs” has failed. The black market is booming. Criminal gangs are raking in huge profits and leaving a trail of violence and misery in their wake. More and more lives are being ruined and more and more families are being torn apart. It is time we stopped repeating the mistakes of the past…

Some countries have decided to take bold unilateral steps. In the US, a number of states have voted to establish regulated recreational cannabis markets and the federal government has started to take steps to reduce the prison population. Uruguay has become the first nation state to do so and the new Canadian government has said it will follow suit. The Czech Republic and Portugal have decriminalised possession of small amounts of drugs so the state can focus resources on prevention and treatment rather than overcrowded prisons. Switzerland has pioneered supervised heroin-injecting clinics, a model Denmark, France and Ireland are following. The UK has led the way on harm-reduction measures such as needle exchange and methadone treatment…

Six weeks ago, we saw what diplomacy can do at the Paris climate talks. The UN general assembly special session on drug policy may be the summit that no one has heard of, but the opportunity to mend the mistakes of the past and change the direction of the future puts it in the same category of importance.

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