Drug Policy

...promoting more effective and humane drug policies

The U.S.-led war on drugs has failed to suppress illicit drug production or trafficking, while harsh drug laws have led to human rights abuses, overcrowded prisons and threats to democratic institutions. WOLA advocates reducing the harms caused by both the drug trade and by the misguided war on drugs. Across the hemisphere, we work for drug reforms that protect human rights and public health.

Key Program Themes:

• The Emerging Drug Policy Debate in Latin America

Latin America is at the vanguard of international drug policy reform and some countries are implementing bold alternatives. Click here to see WOLA’s analysis of reforms and trends. 

• Drug Law Reform

Drug law reforms are focusing on decriminalizing the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal consumption, ensuring proportionality in sentencing, and reducing black markets and violence. Click here to see WOLA’s work on these issues. 

• Legal and Regulated Marijuana Markets

In the Americas and globally, proposals to legalize and regulate marijuana markets—including cultivation, processing, sales and possession—are gaining momentum. Click here to see WOLA’s work regarding these initiatives.

• Coca and Development in the Andes

Forced eradication of coca plantings is devastating to some of the world’s poorest farmers and their families, many of whom have no viable alternative livelihoods. Although forced eradication cause tremendous hardship for thousands of farmers who are already in precarious circumstances, it has conspicuously failed to result in lasting reductions in the cultivation coca for the illicit market. Click here to see WOLA’s efforts to promote economic development in coca growing regions and alternative approaches to coca policy.

Drug Policy News & Analysis

Can Washington Still Dictate Drug Policy in the Americas?

Analysis & Commentary
In an article for NACLA, WOLA's Coletta Youngers and Adam Schaffer analyze how while the drug war has continued in Latin America, the momentum in favor of reform is building in unexpected places.

Latin America Drug Policy Dialogue 2014: Santa Marta

Analysis & Commentary
At the 11th Informal Drug Policy Dialogue, civil society experts and government officials came together to discuss preparations for the UNGASS in 2016.

The United States Rethinks its Draconian Drug Sentencing Policies

After decades of long punishments for non-violent crimes, change is on the horizon
Analysis & Commentary
In this WOLA analysis, we look at recent changes in sentencing policies for drug-related crimes, and what it means for proportional punishment in the United States.

Advocating for Drug Policy Reform at the United Nations

Analysis & Commentary
Learn more about what kind of drug policy reform WOLA is advocating for at the UNGASS in 2016