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World Health Organization quietly endorses drug decriminalization

World Health Organization quietly endorses drug decriminalization


Buried in a report on HIV is an unexpected opinion from the organization

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The United Nations approves of the criminalization of narcotics. But the World Health Organization, a branch of the UN, apparently disagrees.

It's not the most explicit announcement

The Economist has flagged a report on prevention and treatment for HIV in groups most likely to contract the disease. In the report, the WHO quietly recommends decriminalizing drugs — specifically, injectable drugs that spread HIV. According to a recommendation made in the report, "Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration." Buried several pages into the 113-page report, it's not the most explicit announcement, but it is a rebuttal to the UN's official stance: prohibition, with criminal penalties for offenders.

Not that the position is unanimous. Last year, a leaked draft for the UN's drug control policy suggested that many countries were tiring of the organization's policies. The countries asked that the UN focus on drug problems as a matter of public health, rather than one of crime. In 2016, the UN will review its policies and lay out a roadmap for the next decade.