The global “war on drugs” has been fought for 50 years, without preventing the long-term trend of increasing drug supply and use.

Beyond this failure, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has also identified many serious “negative unintended consequences” of the drug war. These are not consequences of drug use itself, but of an enforcement-led approach that, by its nature, criminalises many users – often the most vulnerable in society – and places organised criminals in control of the trade. While some of these consequences – such as the creation of crime and the threatening of public health – are relatively well known and understood by those aware of the issue, the war on drugs has produced one casualty which is often overlooked – the environment.

This briefing summarises the environmental costs of the war on drugs, and demonstrates that if these costs are to be minimised or avoided, alternative forms of drug control must be considered.

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