International security and the global war on drugs: The tragic irony of drug securitisation

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Drugs are a security issue because their misuse is treated as a threat to humanity - securitised, as understood by the international relations theory, in the 1960s. As a result of this securitisation, the market was gifted to organised criminals and, as the market grew so did the power of the cartels.  Organised crime gangs were perceived as a threat to nation states in the 1980s and a further securitisation of the gangs took place.

As a result of the two securitisations global drug policy is placed “above politics” and is effectively immunised from scrutiny.  The time has come to review the outcomes of these securitisations and to compare them with the outcomes from alternative regimes, including legal regulation.  Conducting a comprehensive global impact assessment, along the lines of the three pillars of the UN: development, security and human rights, would assist in bringing drug policy back within the sphere of normal policy evaluation.