In a little-noticed statement to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has said that drug use should not be a crime.
Here are some key excerpts:
We often ignore the evidence that to be successful in our drug policies, health services must provide a comprehensive package known as harm reduction programmes that combine the measures we have previously mentioned.Instead, the best people who use drugs can hope for is to be driven underground to live with the addiction in the dark back streets and abandoned buildings of our towns and cities. Or even worse, they are criminalized and jailed with little or no regard for their healthcare rights or the impact of this policy on the health of their communities.…Treating drug addicts as criminals, is destined to fuel the rise of HIV and other infections not only among those unfortunate enough to have a serious drug addiction, but also for children born into addicted families and ordinary members of the public who are not normally exposed to HIV risks. Injecting drug use is a health issue. It is an issue of human rights. It cannot be condoned, but neither should it be criminalized.…To conclude, the IFRC, on behalf of the most vulnerable people affected by drug use, strongly calls upon key stakeholders and donors to exert all possible efforts to gather knowledge on the scale of the drug use epidemic at country level and decide on the proper response accordingly.Criminalization, discrimination and stigmatization are not such responses. Laws and prosecutions do not stop people from taking drugs.