The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) recently went public with a joint press release. The statement serves as a call to action, citing the various ways that the world could focus on equality. The common end goal is to end discrimination in health care settings. One very poignant paragraph of this thorough announcement has stuck out to cannabis activists, companies, and media outlets imparticular.

One point in the press release reads, “Reviewing and repealing punitive laws that have been proven to have negative health outcomes and that counter established public health evidence. These include laws that criminalize or otherwise prohibit … drug use or possession of drugs for personal use…”

This statement calls for a possible repeal of all punitive laws regarding drug possession and use. Essentially, WHO and the UN have called for a worldwide decriminalization of drugs. This follows an amplifying wave of worldwide support for decriminalization.

In the United States alone, more than twenty states have decriminalized cannabis possession in some capacity. And now, Oregon state has put a bill on the governor's desk that would decriminalize possession of small quantities of heroin, cocaine, and other drugs in the state. The Oregon bill focuses more on drug treatment and small fines over jail time for small drug charges. This bill is a response to the mass incarceration issue abrasively effecting the United States today.

Now, with the addition of this press release from these two major world powerhouse organizations, it seems that worldwide decriminalization could become a reality in this lifetime. Some countries around the world have documented the positive impact drug decriminalization has had on their countries.

Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and began looking at drug possession and use as a public health issue rather than a criminal charge. Business Insider reported the following positive effects from decriminalization in a 2016 article.

Positive Effects of Drug Decriminalization in Portugal:

  1. HIV infections have dropped more than 90% since 2001.
  2. Drug-related deaths are the second-lowest out of entire European Union.
  3. Number of adults who have done drugs in the past year has decreased each year since 2001.
  4. Drug related offenders in Portuguese prisons fell from 44% in 1999 to 21% in 2012.
It wasn’t all positive, however, there were some negatives that the have been noted about decriminalizing in this specific state. In some cases, children and teens are frequently using dangerous synthetic legal drugs like spice. Also, the number of Portuguese people in drug treatment centers increased from 23,600 to 38,000 from 1998 to 2011. Though these could seem like negatives, the positive aspect is that those people are being treated for addiction rather than rotting away in jail or prison.

Worldwide drug decriminalization is a topic that brings about a wide range of responses. This is true of small family conversations and conversations amongst world leaders in the United Nations. Because of this, it could be quite a while before we see what worldwide drug decriminalization could do across the globe. But the inclusion of this information from both the UN and WHO is a huge step in the direction of decriminalizing drugs and focusing instead on public health.


  Posted: Monday, July 17th, 10:20am a year ago
Profile PictureWritten By: Cara Wietstock

Cara Wietstock is a native Californian living in Washington state with almost a decade of budtender experience and even more stoner experience. While she's not pontificating on the current state of cannabis for Roottie, she is practicing yoga, sipping CBD infused teas and hiking through the Pacific Northwest.

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