Drugs Policy

GOALS: To open the space for a review of international drug control, with a special focus on cannabis.

TNI has worked for almost two decades to give voice to those who have suffered disproportionally the consequences of the drug war – from peasant farmers to imprisoned drug users. TNI has emerged as a leading global advisor to both governments and international commissions looking for more effective human rights-based drugs policies. In 2013, the tide finally seemed to turn.

Opening space for drug policy reform

In 2013, in an historic development, cannabis was legalised and regulated in Uruguay, making it the first country in the world to take this step. TNI is proud to have contributed by advising the Uruguayan government as well as organising for the second time a policy dialogue in Uruguay in April, attended by both national and international experts and actors. A member of TNI’s team will be participating in the national commission that will monitor the application of the law.

The regulation of cannabis in two US states in 2013 also contributed to the ferment. TNI has played a key role in marking these shifts, catalysing a a broader debate on alternatives to the existing UN regime. In 2013, four member states called explicitly at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to consider the option of changing the treaty system: Czech Republic, Uruguay, Argentina and Guatemala.

TNI continued to organise its ten-year long informal drug policy dialogues, co-hosting one in Poland in February and Thailand in November. These dialogues brought together policy makers and experts from 30 countries in 2013 and consistently prove to be important arenas for facilitating frank exchanges and learning on best practices around reforming drug policy.

TNI’s advisory role with the Global Commission on Drug Policy, TNI’s collaboration with and technical assistance given to the Bolivian and Uruguayan governments, and TNI’s active role within the Organisation of American States have all, without doubt, had a significant influence on the growing momentum for change.

Spreading the word

TNI produced a series of policy briefs during the year, to examine and raise awareness of these developments. The Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law (Colectivo de Estudios Drogas y Derecho, CEDD), an initiative of TNI and WOLA, brought the issues of proportionality in sentences and alternatives to incarceration onto the regional policy agenda.

In addition, an infographic explaining the change with regards to cannabis in Uruguay proved a very popular resource, with more than 110,000 unique page views in 2013.

TNI also carried out comprehensive research into the history of cannabis and the UN conventions, the initial results of which were presented in March at a CND side event in Vienna on “Cannabis and the 1961 Convention” that TNI organised together with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).  Diego Cánepa, Minister for the Presidency, presented Uruguay’s legislation on cannabis regulation at the event. A landmark report  will be presented at the next CND session in 2014.

“In 2007, I had the honor and pleasure, as General Secretary of the JND (National Drugs Board) of Uruguay, to organize together with TNI and WOLA the first Informal Dialogue on Drug Policies in Latin America. The results we have today in Uruguay in the field of drugs and human rights can be traced back to then… The ongoing support you have provided…also allowed us to join forces with colleagues and friends throughout Latin America.”

Ambassador Milton Romani Gerner, Permanent Representative of Uruguay at the Organisation of American States.


“Open Society Foundations is proud and honored to support the work of the many great people who have worked with TNI over the past four decades, and will continue to make TNI a leading institution in social justice and inclusion. Your cutting edge contributions to research and advocacy around human rights and drug policy have been instrumental in bringing us closer to a just and democratic world.”

Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch
Director, Global Drug Policy Program Open Society Foundations