UN drug report encourages treatment over incarceration

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime just released its 2009 World Drug Report to much fanfare.  Why? Well, it seems the report endorses the government of Portugal’s policy of decriminalizing drugs and preferencing treatment over incarceration.  The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim explains:

In its 2009 World Drug Report, the UN had little but kind words for Portugal’s radical (by U.S. standards) approach. “These conditions keep drugs out of the hands of those who would avoid them under a system of full prohibition, while encouraging treatment, rather than incarceration, for users. Among those who would not welcome a summons from a police officer are tourists, and, as a result, Portugal’s policy has reportedly not led to an increase in drug tourism,” reads the report. “It also appears that a number of drug-related problems have decreased.”

This should come as welcome news to Glenn Greenwald, who is an outspoken proponant of the Portuguese approach.  You can watch a repeat of the webcast of the report’s release in Washington, D.C. here.   Foreign Policy’s James Downie catches the money quote (via the Guardian)

“People who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution,” said Antonio Maria Costa, director of UNODC, calling for universal access to drug treatment. Since people with serious drug problems provided the bulk of drug demand, treating this problem was one of the best ways of shrinking the market.”

Incidentally, this jives with something that the Migration Policy Institute’s Susan Ginsberg told me in a bloggingheads interview  about Mexico border violence: that one sure way to reduce drug related violence in Mexico is to reduce demand here in the United States though a more robust focus on drug treatment.