Rethinking drug control policy
In this article, Adeolu Ogunrombi, Regional Director of the West Africa Drug Policy Network and a member of the West Africa Commission on Drugs, says the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June was an opportunity to reassess West Africa’s drug policies. The region is not only a transit point for global drug traffickers, but it is also a booming consumer market and a production area. Drug trafficking has a negative impact on governance in the countries of the region because it spreads corruption, sometimes even at the highest levels of the government. Injection drug use also poses a public health problem because it increases the spread of HIV among young people in countries where there are generally no services equipped to deal with the negative effects of drug abuse. Faced with these developments, the anti-narcotics measures that have been implemented in the region so far seem ill adapted to the problem. Those measures, which are focused on seizing drugs and punishing traffickers, are needed, but priority must now be given to policies aimed at supporting development, health and good governance. For the moment, the war on drugs is seen as a war against users and small dealers, whereas the high-level traffickers go unpunished. Discussions about reforming the region’s drug policies must start and should be spearheaded by courageous leaders.