The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme : Principles


The aim of this programme is to assemble and disseminate informationand analysis that supports the rational consideration of drug policies,and leads to the more effective management of the widespread useof psychoactive substances.

It is governed by the following principles:

  • That the current global drug control mechanism, (as enshrinedin the three United Nations Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988),is not achieving the core objective of significantly reducingthe scale of the market for controlled substances, such as heroin,cocaine, methamphetamine and cannabis.
  • That the negative side effects of the implementation of thissystem may themselves be creating significant social problems.
  • That reducing the harm faced by the many individuals who usedrugs, including the risk of infections, such as Hepatitis C andHIV/AIDS, is not a sufficiently high priority in internationalpolicies and programmes.
  • That there is a growing body of evidence regarding which policiesand activities are (and are not) effective in reducing drug useand associated health and social problems, and that this evidenceis not sufficiently taken into account in current policy discussions,which continue to be dominated by ideological considerations.
  • That the current dilemmas in international drug policy can onlybe resolved through an honest review of progress so far, a betterunderstanding of the complex factors that create widespread druguse, and a commitment to pursue policies that are effective.
  • That analysis of future policy options is unlikely to producea clear ‘correct’ policy – what may be appropriate in one settingor culture may be less so in another. In addition, there are likelyto be trade-offs between policy objectives (i.e. to reduce overalldrug use or to reduce drug-related crime) that may be viewed differentlyin different countries.
  • That future policy should be grounded on a scientifically basedscale of harm for all social drugs. This should involve a continuousreview of scientific and sociological evidence of the biologicalharm, toxicity, mortality and dependency; the relation to violentbehaviour; the relation to crime; the costs to the health services;the general impact on others; and the total economic impact ofthe use of each individual drug on society.