Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


This paper examines the debate surrounding the trend of global movements away from prohibition and towards a harms reduction approach to drug policy. This paper reviews the prohibitionist model that is, by and large, the global status quo of how countries deal with drugs. Under the prohibitionist approach, governments criminally ban the production, trafficking, sale, possession, and use of drugs in an effort to directly combat the harms associated with drugs. Section I of this paper presents the prohibitionist approach as the international status quo and examines the effects and failures of that approach. Section II examines a variety of harms reduction approaches that attempt to address harms to drug users and society at large through treatment, tolerance, and the recognition of human rights. However, the potential successes of harms reduction models are still constrained by the reality of prohibitionist legal regimes whose stricter criminalization of drugs often contradict and frustrate the policies and legislative efforts of harms reduction proponents. Because the harms reduction approaches are restrained by a prohibitionist legal regime that criminalizes their policies, legalization becomes a necessary step to achieving the goals of harms reduction approaches. Therefore, section III of this paper presents an alternative to legal systems that ban drugs in order to remove this clash between prohibitionist and harms reduction policies. Section III lays out three arguments for the legalization of drugs on a global scale. This paper concludes that a legalization-based approach is the best drug policy. It advocates that governing bodies all over the world adopt an intelligent, legalized approach to the problem of drugs in society as a more effective approach to combating the harms of drug addiction and the crimes of the drug trade while upholding human rights, global equity, and rule of law.

Cite as: 19 Annl. Survey Int'l. Comp. L. 197 (2013).