On Wednesday, March 22, Human Rights Watch, the Drug Policy Alliance and Hunter College Human Rights Program will host a conversation about the global movement toward ending the criminalization of drug use and possession for personal use, as well as current prospects for drug policy reform at the local, state, national and international levels.
Drug Policy Reform: Prospects for Change in the U.S. and Abroad
Date: Wednesday, March 22
Time: 2:30 – 4:00pm
Location: Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College (47-49 East 65th St., NYC)
- Ruth Dreifuss, Former President of Switzerland; Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy
- Michel Kazatchkine, Professor of Medicine; Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy; Former Head of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
- Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
- Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, Co-Director, US Program, Human Rights Watch
Every 25 seconds someone in the U.S. is arrested for possessing drugs for personal use. This amounts to more than 1.25 million arrests per year and makes drug possession the single most arrested crime in the country. Black and white adults use and sell drugs at similar rates, but a Black adult is 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession. As a result of these arrests, on any given day at least 137,000 people are behind bars. Tens of thousands more are convicted, cycle through jails and prisons, and spend extended periods on probation and parole, often burdened with crippling debt from court-imposed fines and fees.
Increasingly, other countries and many in the U.S. have been calling for reducing the role of criminalization in drug policy. Roughly two dozen countries, and dozens of U.S. cities and states, have taken steps toward decriminalization in recent years. By decriminalizing possession and investing in treatment and harm reduction services, the harms of problematic drug use can be more effectively addressed, while improving public safety and health.
This event will discuss the drug policy reform landscape in the U.S. and the move toward decriminalization around the world, drawing on the following recent reports:
- Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States documents the devastating harms caused by enforcement of drug possession laws in the US. This joint report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union is based on extensive new analysis of federal and state-level data, and over 365 interviews conducted primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, and New York.
- Advancing Drug Policy Reform: A New Approach to Decriminalization builds on past reports by the Global Commission on Drug Policy and issues recommendations for more effective and human rights-based drug policies, including: abolish the death penalty, end all penalties — both criminal and civil — for drug consumption and possession for personal use, implement alternatives to punishment for all low-level, non-violent actors in the drug trade, and explore regulatory models for all illicit drugs as the next logical step.