UN and the WHO call for decriminalisation of drugs

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HUMAN RIGHTS. United Nations and the World Health Organization call for decriminalisation of all drug users and possession of drugs for personal use. In a joint statement on ending discrimination within health care settings, the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organisation (WHO) urges all countries to decriminalise the use of all drugs and the possession of all drugs for personal use.    


Decriminalisation of drug use and possession of drugs for personal use is not to be confused with legalisation and the regulated sales of drugs such as in countries and states that have legalised cannabis for personal use. With decriminalisation, the manufacturing and sale of a scheduled narcotic drug remain illegal for the public.

Since some countries’ repressive drug laws did not live up to international human rights and established public health evidence, there is a worldwide growing support from human rights organisations, public health groups, the medical and scientific community to decriminalise use and legalise drugs for personal use. As well as the UN:

“International human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect. By becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights.”

WHO have issued support and recommendations to decriminalise all drug users before. In a previous report regarding consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations the recommendation regarding decriminalisation and ban on forced treatment on drug users was stated under the section Good practice recommendations concerning decriminalisation:

  • Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalise injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.


  • Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalise the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs [needle and syringe programmes]) and that legalise OST [opioid substitution therapy] for opioid-dependent people.


  • Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs.

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Decriminalisation of all drug use and possession of drugs for personal use in order to reduce harm is not only supported by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation because it is a matter of human rights. It is supported worldwide because these discriminatory, draconian and punitive laws should have never been implemented in the first place.

Not living up to international human rights is breaking them. Furthermore, breaking international human rights is a crime. Who in their right mind supports crimes against humanity?



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