A Drug Reform Revolution

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The state of global drug reform is reaching a tipping point. Nowhere is debate, and change, happening as fast as in the Americas, where the past few years alone have seen a drastic shift in marijuana’s legal status in the United States, Uruguay and likely many more regions to come over the next few years. Debate is taking place at a very local level, from Mexico City to Jamaica, and also at the regional and international level, even this month.

Earlier this month, Sept. 3 and 4, Costa Rica hosted the fifth Latin American Conference on Drug Policy; on Tuesday, Sept. 9, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released its new report, Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work, in New York City, with the help of former presidents of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, among others. Then, the Organization of American States (OAS) will hold a special assembly on drugs in Guatemala City, on Sept. 19.

Change in drug policy throughout the Americas could have enormous impact; in inspiring reform worldwide, but also in its effect on communities that have been hit hard by decades of prohibitive laws, which have in many regions turned into militarized efforts to curb the production and transit of drugs. Thousands have been killed, disappeared and displaced as a result of drug-related violence and insecurity.

Many expect the debate will culminate at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on “the world drug problem,” slated for 2016, when calls for change to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotics will undoubtedly be louder than ever.

The debate is expected to also heat up in Canada, as the legalization of marijuana is part of at least one candidate’s platform in the lead up to Canada’s federal election in 2015.

With this ongoing discussion in mind, the Canadian International Council and OpenCanada is hosting a week-long series on drugs: A Drug Reform Revolution: Preparing for the next crop of policy alternatives.

In it, we look at the factors present when Uruguay passed its legalization bill, which shed light on the reform process in general; contributor Robert Muggah describes the changing narrative throughout the Americas; Latin American specialist Jean Daudelin asks how cocaine markets can become less violent; and a Q&A with policy analyst Dan Werb discusses the divergent paths the U.S. and Canada have recently taken, among other features.

Will reform result in easier access to drugs for a younger generation? Will it serve the intended blow against organized crime? And, what does it mean for the international treaty system that still enforces prohibition?

The series ends with a live panel discussion, where these and other questions will be debated. Guests include Dan Werb in Toronto, Mexican law expert Catalina Perez Correa and John Collins, the coordinator of the London School of Economics’ International Drug Policy Project.

Join us for this important debate on Google Hangout, Friday, Sept. 12 at 12 p.m. ET. Follow and contribute to the conversation all week on social media, using #cicdrugs.

In the series

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Canada's pot policies: what happened?

An interview with Dan Werb on what changes in U.S. drug law mean for Canada.
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Lessons from Uruguay’s drug reform

Ten factors any country debating marijuana legalization should consider. By Eva Salinas.
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Changing the Drug Policy Narrative

Militarized strategies have failed to win the war on drugs. We need a new approach that puts people at the centre, says Robert Muggah.
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On the frontlines: drug reform in Texas

Could marijuana be legalized in one of the most conservative states in the U.S.? By Nathan Jones.
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A less-violent, illicit drug market? It is possible

If we were serious about harm reduction, we would manage drug markets, not crack down on them, argues Jean Daudelin.