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That’s right, the “war on drugs” that was launched about 50 years ago has failed. Why? Let’s just say that the incidents of deaths by drug overdose in a year, now ranks higher than deaths by car accidents. And that’s just one component of the “war” that was built on the notion of prohibition and abstinence. “If we make the drugs harder to get, then people won’t use them,” somebody somewhere likely said at some point. When in actuality what happens is that the people who use drugs will do whatever necessary to get the drugs and that includes sharing dirty needles, stealing, and other dangerous activities. So what’s the answer you ask? I had the honor of being invited to the press conference for the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s unveiling of their new report. The report has 7 main recommendations for nations across the globe to help end the drug epidemic. “Taking Control:Pathways to Drug Policies That Work”, is an interesting read and is perfectly and simply summarized in each section, which only makes me wonder why it has been so hard to get a handle on the drug crisis.

Presidents, Sirs, Secretaries, and Ministers working together.

Presidents, Sirs, Secretaries, and Ministers working together.

At this conference there were many notables from the former Presidents of Brazil and Mexico, to the goldilocked Sir Richard Branson (who even with his feathers and toothy grin makes an incredible impact on the commission.) Sir Branson was very eloquent yesterday in the moments he chose to speak and one of his comments stuck with me, he said “Drugs should be treated as a health problem, not a criminal problem.” Genius!! As soon as we start decriminalizing drug users, nations can start saving tons of money and police resources going after these mostly non-violent offenders. Some other disturbing information that came out at this conference was related to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis cases. In countries where there are stricter laws against drug use, the numbers are rising and getting worse every day. One in five drug users who use needles is infected with HIV/AIDS and two in three users have hepatitis. These were numbers shared by the former President of Portugal, one country that changed it’s policies ten years ago and has seen a dramatic impact and improvement since then!

At the end of the conference, we were treated to a video that succinctly displays the failure of the war on drugs. It’s not very long, but it is powerful.

I was invited to attend the conference by the Drug Policy Alliance, which is working very hard to decriminalize drug use, increase overdose prevention by making access to naloxone easier, and helping to enact Good Samaritan Laws, just to name a few of their ambitions. Many of these ambitions are being realized as I type, for example, there are now 23 states that have approved the use of medical marijuana, that’s due in part to some of the tremendous efforts of the DPA!

I’m off my soapbox now, well almost, but understand that this is a cause close to my heart because my brother died of a drug overdose, and he may have been saved by the drug my stepfather helped to create if he had had access to it. This won’t be the last you’ll hear from me on this issue because I am still here and it is important that people are educated. Feel free to email me at julie@totemtamers.com if you would like to know more.

Stay well.

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