During the sixth summit of the Americas (April 2012, Cartagena), leaders of various countries ofthe Americas issued a mandate to the Organization of American States (OAS) to analyze current drug policies and explore new approaches, with a view to developing viable alternatives that would effectively regulate the production, trade, and consumption of drugs of illicit substances while alleviating the violence and harm associated with current approaches to this issue.

Since then, the hemispheric response to the “World Drug Problem” has been a changing landscape, and many more leaders have since called for reform of international and national-level drug policies to include more effective and humane alternatives to dealing with this global crisis. Previous measures to suppress drug production and consumption have been extreme, and have often proved ineffective.

Methods such as aerial fumigation to suppress cultivation or mass incarceration as a response to drug consumption and small scale trafficking, have taken governments and societies further away from their original objective of preventing drug misuse and guaranteeing universal access to health and treatment for addiction, as set out in the 1961 convention on narcotic drugs. These first UN conventions of 1961 and 1971, prepared primarily from a punitive and prohibitionist perspective, created and sustained a ‘War on Drugs’ mentality.

This paper by the OAS Inter-American Commission on Women (CIM) offers a country-by-country review and analysis of available information on illicit drugs and the consequences of current drug control policies.