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

Report: Washington's Marijuana Legalization Grows Knowledge, Not Just Pot

New WOLA/Brookings report analyzes legal marijuana program in Washington state
Analysis & Commentary
In this analysis of the legal and regulated marijuana program in Washington state, Philip Wallach finds that the state's most bold innovation is not the sale of marijuana, but rather its meticulous study of the historic experiment.

Reforms and Contradictions in Ecuador’s Drug Policy

Analysis & Commentary
On August 11, 2014 a sweeping new penal code went into effect in Ecuador, which includes significant revisions to the country’s previous drug law. What do the changes mean, and how did they come about?

Colorado's Rollout of Legal Marijuana Is Succeeding

New report from WOLA and the Brookings Institution analyzes the implementation of marijuana regulation in Colorado
Publication
The report finds that the state of Colorado has largely succeeded in rolling out a legal marijuana system, and its early implementation efforts have been impressive. This report details what has been successful, how Colorado has achieved an effective rollout, and what challenges remain.

Reimagining Drug Policy in the Americas

WOLA Experts Contribute to NACLA Summer 2014 Issue
Analysis & Commentary
In this summer issue of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), WOLA experts John Walsh and Coletta Youngers offer analysis on cannabis regulation and the turning point in the reform debate.