More than 60 international experts are calling for personal use of all recreational drugs to be decriminalised immediately, to end ‘the war on drugs’.
Legislation, regulation and restrictions on age, advertising and licensing should also come into force, they’ve said.
The group, which includes drug experts, bioethicists, criminal justice researchers and psychologists, claim prohibition and criminalisation has been “costly and ineffective” and these “failed policies” must end.
Instead, they argue that legalisation could lead to increased revenue from taxes, reduced crime, improvements to public health and lower poverty rates.
Their paper, Racial Justice Requires Ending the War on Drugs, analyses more than 150 studies and reports and details evidence that prohibition unfairly affects black communities.
Lead study authors Brian D Earp, from the University of Oxford, and Jonathan Lewis, from Dublin City University, said: “The ‘war on drugs’ has explicitly racist roots and continues to disproportionately target certain communities of colour.
“Drug prohibition and criminalisation have been costly and ineffective since their inception. It’s time for these failed policies to end.
“The first step is to decriminalise the personal use and possession of small amounts of all drugs currently deemed to be illicit, and to legalise and regulate cannabis. Policymakers should pursue these changes without further delay.”
The authors say prohibition leads to unsafe drug use resulting to healthcare costs, and some users don’t seek treatment for fear of criminal charges.
They go on to say unregulated markets mean drugs have inconsistent and unknown purity, risking health and vulnerable groups being exploited by gangs.
In the UK in 2016/17, black people were almost nine times as likely as white people to be stopped and searched for drugs, and more likely to be arrested and prosecuted, they note.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, drug-related deaths in England and Wales are at a record level, with 2019 seeing the highest number in more than a quarter of a century.
The authors call for the US and UK to decriminalise and harm reduction, as seen in Portugal, where drug-related deaths have fallen and users encouraged to seek treatment.
A Government spokesman said: “Illegal drugs devastate lives, ruin families and bring misery to our communities
“Our approach on drugs remains clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and tackle the supply of illegal drugs.
“The Government has no plans to decriminalise drug possession. It would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families and communities.”