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The World Can Learn from Switzerland's Drug Policy

In the late 1980s, Switzerland saw a significant increase in injection drug use, and the crime and public health harms that are associated with it under our prohibition system. A new video from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union features a range of Swiss experts discussing the science-based policies that the country has adopted to deal with those issues, including Professor Ambros Uchtenhagen, head of the first heroin maintenance program in Switzerland; Felix Lengweiler, the chief of security police and policing of narcotics crime at the Zurich City Police; and Uwe Serduelt, deputy director, Centre of Research on Direct Democracy at the Zurich University.

The video's release coincides with a new report on the subject by the Open Society Institute, Read From the Mountaintops: What the World Can Learn from Drug Policy Change in Switzerland.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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The swiss movement mirrors Vancouvers

At least it did until a rabid dog named Stephen Harper began taking the Harm reduction ideas to court.Things have deteriorated a lot since the election that saw Harper,a rabid anti drug politician who counts himself amongst the evangelicals ,Canadian style.Watch the video on the Swiss movement and the language mirrors what we heard in Vancouver for years,until the election of Stephen Harper.Now all we hear is chronic offender,more jail time,Lock em up.Our drug policy has been dragged back 40 years and will do just what the lock em up did back then.Helped by a police chief who's more interested in small time property offenders than in Gangsters with AK-47's.I guess if I was a cop I'd rather go after the small time criminal too.We have a heroin maintenance program that's been sitting idle since 2008 for a complete lack of funding.You don't beat addiction with prison so they say it's better to have a thief in jail.Less theft while he's in.Maybe but he'll be a much better and a much more violent theif after a stint in federal prison.I know this from experience.Harper is a born again Christian who brings his superstition with him to parliament.His hatred for addicts is legendary.His policies are assinine and without any scientific backing.Quite the opposite.

UN Human Rights report opposes War On Drugs

Since the elimination of the Reader Blogs I don't have a way to post this properly but the report is too important to let it be overlooked so I'm commenting where it's reasonably appropriate. I hope the Reader Blogs will be restored so everyone has the opportunity to take a seat at the table and to communicate and/or report about matters that will otherwise be overlooked or not addressed in a timely manner.


Press Release from 


“Criminalization and penalization of drug use counterproductive,” warns new UN report 

NEW YORK (26 October 2010) – Numerous human rights violations result from the overly punitive approach adopted by the international drug control regime, with an almost exclusive focus on the use of law enforcement policies and criminal sanctions. In his latest report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Mr. Anand Grover, calls on Governments and international organizations to adopt a human rights-based approach to drug control as a matter of priority.

Mr. Grover concludes that “it is clear that significantly more must be done to make human rights central to the issue of drug control,” and that “criminalization of drug use, ostensibly designed to deter drug use, possession and trafficking, has failed.” The Special Rapporteur urges States and the international community to adopt harm-reduction and evidence-based treatment strategies to drug use, and decriminalize or de-penalize drug use and possession.

Mr. Grover underscores that Millennium Development Goal 6 requires States to commit to halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, but in contrast to this, continuing criminalization directly contradicts several multilateral health policies.

“Egregious violations of the right to health sometimes occur in the name of drug dependence treatment, with certain States promoting compulsory treatment programmes that involve forced labour, solitary confinement and experimental treatments,” disregarding the need for informed consent says the Special Rapporteur.

The current international system of drug control also results in millions of patients being denied access to essential medicines necessary for palliative care and other conditions. “An alarming availability gap exists between the developed and developing world in relation to the supply of essential medicines,” explains Mr. Grover. In his view, this gap exists because availability is limited by restrictive regulations, particularly on opioid-based medications.

“The current international drug control system is ineffective, and reform must be undertaken at all policymaking levels,” Mr. Grover concluded.

Mr. Anand Grover was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. The mandate covers all countries.

To read the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health and international drug control, visit:

To learn more about the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, visit:

For further information and media requests, please contact Yoonie Kim (Tel: +41 79 201 01 19 / email: [email protected]

Coerced abstention

Others have written and I agree that coerced abstention can often worsen chances for successful treatment, at least in the early stages of treatment. Abstention is of course a compelled prescription when a drug court judge refers a user to treatment.  As long as we insist on treating users as criminals rather than as patients they will often fail to receive the kind of treatment that can benefit them (and the rest of us).  Our system of laws against drugs is irrational.

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