By Stuart Rodger for VICE. Next month, the 193 member states of the United Nations will meet to talk about drugs. The last time this happened, in 1998, the summit ended with a distinctly utopian ambition: the total eradication of all drugs from the entire world. “A drug-free world – we can do it!” the summit declared. Eighteen years later, narcotics are still as popular as ever, with the UN estimating that the global number of illicit drug users will increase 25 percent by 2050.
In the meantime, a handful of countries have experimented with alternative approaches. Portugal famously decriminalised all drugs in 2001, while Switzerland has pioneered the policy of heroin prescription and the US states of Washington and Colorado have legalised the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. So far, all of those schemes have, by and large, proved successfulin minimising harm and boosting local economies.