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

Increasing Incarceration for Drug Offenses in Latin America

Discourse vs. Reality
Analysis & Commentary
According to new research, incarceration for low-level drug offenses in increasing throughout Latin America.

Latin America’s Crackdown on Drugs Defies Its Progressive Rhetoric

Analysis & Commentary
Support for excessively harsh drug laws stems from very real concerns in Latin America that drug markets generate instability and violence. However, data from previous CEDD research shows that the incarcerated are mainly low-level drug offenders, whose arrests have little or no impact on the drug trade, as they are the easiest to replace.

New Studies Reveal Increase in Incarceration for Drug Offenses in the Americas

Despite the current debate in Latin America on the need to rethink drug policy, mass incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses has increased across the region.

The Impact of Drug Policy on Human Rights in the Americas

Drug policy reformers from throughout the hemisphere present on how drug policies have violated human rights.