August 12 is proclaimed the International Day of Youth. To mark this day, we, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Youth RISE and Espolea take this opportunity to call on Member States to remove criminal sanctions placed on young people who use drugs. Harsh drug laws are often established and justified to protect youth, however young people are disproportionately affected by the war on drugs which has resulted in widespread and far reaching harms:
- Criminal sanctions against young people who use drugs have consistently failed in its mission to deter drug use and has instead led to often higher consumption rates and high levels of youth incarceration;
- Young people who use drugs hide their consumption when harsh policies exist, significantly increasing their risk of HIV, Hepatitis C and overdose;
- Arrest, incarceration, and criminal records damage the future opportunities of young people and present life-long barriers to education and employment opportunities;
- The criminalization of young people who use drugs also leads to widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, forced treatment and denial of life-saving health services.
Member States must decriminalize drug use, drug possession for personal use, and seek alternatives to incarceration for the best interests of young people globally. As the world, and in particular the United Nations, turns to the next generation for the solutions for today’s problems, we also call on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to support Member States to move towards decriminalization and explore alternative policy responses for young people who use drugs. Punitive laws have been shown not to protect us as young people, but rather to adversely affect our health, violate our human rights and inhibit our future opportunities.
We call on you today to support, don’t punish our youth. We deserve a better future and a better today.