As drug policy reform takes on new meaning and energy across the hemisphere, let us also remember the historic indigenous effort to retain sovereignty over territory and sustain communities, now challenged by both drugs and the wars against them.
Living and dying without pain is a very important component of the right to health. Consequently, States have an obligation not only to remove obstacles that prevent patients from obtaining palliative drugs, but also to promote more flexible programs and policies that facilitate access to these medicines.
We need to understand that the person battling addiction is facing an illness that needs public health policies just as much as those facing the end of life. The experience of pain, whether we experience it ourselves or we watch a loved one suffer, should remind us of the fragility of life and the need for compassion and empathy.
The drug policy reform movement, albeit with its internal diversity, has one main premise: prohibition of drugs has failed to achieve its goal of reducing both demand and supply for illicit substances. And that failure has come at a painful cost, with massive negative consequences to the poor and vulnerable, by creating an illicit market and fueling organized crime.
The war on drugs, especially against coca, has been used in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru as a tool to stigmatize, isolate, and criminalize populations that cultivate coca, either for cultural or economic reasons. It is not an exaggeration to say that prohibition has exacerbated the poverty and marginalization that these peripheral communities where coca is produced already suffered.
In spite of the imminent increment in its demand and importance as a human rights issue, access to opiate based medications is still limited in the global South. Although the administration of morphine forms part of the list of essential medications recommended by the World Health Organization, and its production is relatively inexpensive, as there are no patents, its access is generally restricted.