Un’s International Narcotics Control Board Calls for Decriminalization of Simple Possession, Abolition of Capital Punishment

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The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which oversees compliance with the three international drug control conventions, recently issued an alert regarding policies on drug-related offenses.

In the announcement, the Board advocates for the decriminalization of simple possession, underscoring that “There is no obligation stemming from the conventions to incarcerate drug users who commit minor offences.”

In many countries, writes the Board, the “policies to address drug-related criminality, including personal use, have continued to be rooted primarily in punitive criminal justice responses,” such as prosecution and incarceration. Meanwhile, “alternative measures such as treatment, rehabilitation and social integration remain underutilized.”

The INCB also points to the discretion that is at each country’s disposal, noting that though Member States “have an obligation under the drug control conventions to establish certain behaviours as punishable offences,” that responsibility is subject to their Constitutions. Furthermore, when it comes to “minor drug-related offences including possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use . . . the conventions do not oblige States to adopt punitive responses.”

Additionally, the INCB’s recent announcement asks Member States to “consider the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences” and condemns the extrajudicial targeting of those suspected of illicit drug activity. This includes “violent acts of reprisal and murder at the hands of law enforcement,” which, the Board underscores, violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This stance mirrors comments made by INCB member Raúl Martín del Campo during a forum hosted by the Mexican Senate back in April. As legislators grappled with possibilities for the regulation of cannabis for adult use, del Campo noted that the conventions do not stipulate that countries have to opt for wars against narcotrafficking.

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