The Community Justice Portal 11th Annual Public Lecture was given on 22nd May 2014 by Dr Julian Buchanan, Associate Professor, School of Social & Cultural Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Please click here to access the podcast of the lecture, and follow along with the Prezi presentation below.
Ending Drug Prohibition with a Hangover? Global Perspectives
We have not had a War on Drugs, nor has the use of drugs for pleasure been prohibited. The 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs imposed strict controls and punishments on particular substances while other dangerous drugs (alcohol and tobacco in particular) were granted a privileged and promoted status.
This socially constructed bifurcation of substances established a Drugs Apartheid that outlawed particular drugs so what we have is a 'War between Drugs' that ultimately became a war on people who used substances that didn't have government approval. Black and Minority Ethnic groups and the discarded working class have been major casualties in this war. Radical drug law reform rooted in scientific evidence and human rights is needed to end the oppressive and unjust drug laws that have caused more harm than good.
Internationally there have been some significant drug policy changes (The Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Uruguay, New Zealand and some US States) all offering different approaches and there is now a growing momentum and acceptance internationally that a paradigm shift should occur. But what should drug policy reform look like?
While there is some understandable excitement and celebration at seeing prohibition begin to crumble - these are critical, if not dangerous, times of change. Using international examples this lecture will outline the need for change, critically evaluate the risks of particular drug policy changes and explore principles to underpin drug law reform.
About Julian Buchanan
Julian worked for Liverpool Social Services for six years before joining the Merseyside Probation Service as a qualified probation officer in 1982. In the mid 1980s as a drug specialist he pioneered a ‘risk reduction’ approach to substance misuse. During his 15 years with the probation service he held a variety of positions: probation officer; training officer; practice teacher, and middle manager. In 1995 he joined Liverpool University as lecturer and programme leader for the Home Office sponsored probation qualification. In 1997 he was promoted to Senior Lecture at University of Central Lancashire where he set up a Masters degree in Substance Misuse. In 2000 he joined Glyndwr University (Wales) where he established criminal justice and criminology BA and MA programmes, and set up the Social Inclusion Research Unit. In 2011 he joined the Institute of Criminology at Victoria University of Wellington.
As an academic Julian has continued to examine issues that confronted him as a practitioner working in the community: the role of probation; effective community sentences; managing and responding to problem drug use; and understanding and tackling discrimination and social exclusion. He has researched and published widely on these issues including around forty contributions in book chapters and journal articles. In 2009 he co-edited ‘Effective Practice in Health, Social Care and Criminal Justice: A partnership approach’ now in its second edition published by Open University Press.
He has been external examiner for programmes at Trinity College, Dublin and Liverpool John Moores University, and is a specialist assessor for numerous journals including: International Journal of Drug Policy, Criminology and Criminal Justice Journal, British Journal of Community Justice, Probation Journal and the Journal of Social Policy.
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