Drug Policy

...promoting more effective and humane drug policies

The U.S.-led “war on drugs” has failed to suppress the production, trafficking, or consumption of illegal drugs, while enriching and empowering criminal enterprises. The enforcement of harsh drug laws has led to human rights abuses, overcrowded prisons, and threats to democratic institutions. WOLA advocates for reducing the harms caused by both the drug trade and by drug policies themselves. Throughout the Americas, we work for reforms that protect human rights and promote public health.

Key Program Themes:

Drug Policy Debate and Reform in the Americas

WOLA is actively working to promote a wide-ranging debate in the hemisphere on new drug policy approaches, including the decriminalization of drug consumption, improved proportionality in sentencing, and cannabis regulation.

Legal, Regulated Cannabis

In the Americas and globally, proposals are gaining momentum to remove cannabis markets from the control of criminal groups and to create legal, regulated frameworks for cultivation, processing, sale, and possession. WOLA considers these to be enormously promising and is working to support regulatory approaches that uphold human rights, public health, and public safety.

Women, Drug Policies, and Incarceration in the Americas

Women in the Americas are being incarcerated for minor, non-violent, drug-related crimes at an alarming rate. As part of a joint project with partners across the region, IDPC, Dejusticia, and WOLA have convened a working group to illustrate the human costs of incarceration and advance policies that protect these women’s rights and end the unjust criminalization of low-level drug offenders.

Coca and Development in the Andes

Forced eradication of coca is devastating to some of the world’s poorest farmers and their families, many of whom have no viable alternative livelihoods. Despite decades of efforts, eradication has conspicuously failed to result in lasting reductions in the cultivation coca for the illicit market. WOLA advocates for equitable and sustainable rural economic development in coca growing regions. 

Drug Policy News & Analysis

Women Behind Bars: Photo Essays Show The Human Cost of Current Drug Policies in the Americas

Analysis & Commentary
Across Latin America, the effects of disproportionate punishment for low-level, non-violent drug offenses are particularly severe for women. The following women were convicted and imprisoned for drug offenses in Colombia and Costa Rica. These are their stories.

Uruguay's Cannabis Law Makes Big Strides, But Faces Serious Challenges

Analysis & Commentary
Nearly two and half years after becoming law, Uruguay’s pioneering plan to regulate every level of the national market for cannabis is finally on the verge of taking shape. While implementation has proceeded at a deliberate pace, recent advances provide a glimpse of what full implementation will look like.

Colombia’s Contradictory Return to Coca Fumigation

Government Calls for Reforms at UNGASS, but Backtracks at Home
Analysis & Commentary
On April 18, the Colombian government restarted use of the harmful and ineffective herbicide glyphosate to destroy coca crops, months after the government suspended aerial spraying because the chemical was found to likely be carcinogenic.

Cannabis and the Conventions: UNGASS and Beyond

In a historic event at the United Nations General Assembly on drugs (UNGASS), WOLA talks about cannabis and the drug conventions, the UN's "elephant in the room."