SSDP at the 60th Commission on Narcotic Drugs

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Every year the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs meets in Vienna, Austria to ensure the international drug control treaties are being implemented. At this year’s CND, the 60th since the body’s inception, SSDPers Fergal Eccles (Ireland) and Orsí Feher (Austria) presented a side event and observed the sessions. Check out what they took away from the week’s events.  At the end of this long week, one thing is clear: drug policy is changing, more rapidly than ever before. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) recommended that countries should follow Portugal in decriminalising all drugs. Many of the side events were centered around harm reduction, in both developed and developing countries. Other events pointed out that the misinformation spread about drugs has contributed to a lack of trust between generations on issues surrounding drugs. What once were taboo topics are now discussed as realities at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. On Thursday, we presented an event titled ‘Are Drug Policies Protecting Youth?’ The event drew a diverse crowd, despite having been placed during other interesting panel discussions. We expressed that policy has had a detrimental effect on the stigmatisation of young people who use drugs, which impedes opportunities and forces people into antisocial or self-destructive behavior. We pointed out the inability of students to study topics about drugs in college, as well as the lack of access to basic harm reduction material and honest, judgement-free advice. SSDP gave us a unique opportunity to bring up points often missing from the debate. We received an incredibly positive review from attendees. One of the recommendations we gave during our panel discussion were that the legalisation of cannabis would help steer young people away from harder drugs, and provide a safer alternative to alcohol. We spoke about the mistrust young people have for medics, both at festivals and in colleges/nightlife etc. This presents a direct obstacle towards providing life-saving treatment and mental care to young people.  Being at CND allowed us to connect with so many international organisations, hemp growers, doctors, police, politicians, activists, and bost-shakers. The friendliness of the community is always outstanding. One highlight was meeting Chito Gascon, an internationally renowned human rights activists. He expressed his concern about the lack of action taken against the Philippines genocidal drug war. The Philippines remained the elephant in the room throughout the entire commission, which has seen the murder of over an estimated 7,000 drug users and dealers, being described as ‘crimes against humanity’ by Amnesty International. Things certainly are changing for drug policy worldwide. Drug issues are finally being described as health issues, which is a giant leap for drug policy.