by CSSDP National Office
photo credit: CBC News
You may have already got wind of the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s new report: The war on drugs and HIV/AIDS: how the criminalization of drug use fuels the global pandemic

If this is the first you’re hearing of it, here’s a super brief overview:

Global Commission Report 101

The report:

Describes how the global war on drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners.

Condemns the drug war as a failure.
Recommends immediate, major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime specifically to halt the spread of HIV infection, along with other drug war harms.

Here’s why it’s notable:

The Commission’s first report, released in June 2011, generated unprecedented media coverage and catalyzed international debate about the urgent need for fundamental reforms of the global drug prohibition regime.

The Global Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes – including alternatives to incarceration, greater emphasis on public health approaches to drug use, decriminalization, and experiments in legal regulation.

You can find today’s press release here, and a link to the full report here.

Where CSSDP comes in
At CSSDP, we believe that drug use should be addressed as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue, to that end, we support drug policies that reduce and prevent harm from drug use… and it’s not every day that we get a panel of ex-presidents and other world leaders writing a report to prove our point for us.

We’re excited to start using this report in our outreach efforts and have put together a brief list of suggestions for how we/you may include it in outreach.

1. Send a note to your local MP, MLA, or city council.
2. Use it as an excuse to do community outreach.
3. Write a letter to the editor.

Take a look and let us know what you think. If you have suggestions for some more creative outreach ideas, we would love to hear them. You can

1. leave a comment,
2. tweet us at @cssdp, or
3. post on our Facebook Page.

What you can do.

1. Send a note to your local MP, MLA, or city council – fine, the Prime Minister! – to let them know the report/you exist.

A brief note is all it takes to remind your elected representatives that their constituents care about evidence-based drug policy reform. Below is an example of some of the things you may want to include – feel free to borrow from it, or check out Apathy is Boring for some tips on how to write your own.

Salutation & introduction: I hope this finds you well. My name is (name) and I am (member/chapter leader) of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (chapter) and one of your constituents in (riding/area).
Why you are writing: I’m writing today to bring your attention to a recent report issued by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, one of the most distinguished groups of world leaders to jointly recognized the adverse health and social consequences of drug prohibition and to call for reform based on the best available health and scientific evidence.
The report and regionally relevant supplemental information, if available: I have enclosed the report as an attachment here and included a link to an overview of the report that appeared today in the (local newspaper).
Why you care about the report, in your own words: As a proud advocate for drug policies that protect community health and safety, especially with respect to youth, I am encouraged by the Global Commission’s definitive call for the decriminalization of drug users and emphasis on a public health approach to regulating drug use.
What response you would like, if any: As a policymaker and a (parent? lawyer? doctor?) I am sure you have thoughts on the topic of this report! I am not familiar with your position on the topic of illicit drug policy reform and I would be much obliged if you would be so kind as to share it with me. By the same token, if you would like to learn more about the CSSDP I would be happy to meet with you at your convenience.
Friendly closing: Many thanks in advance for your time and consideration. Respectfully yours, (your name)

2. Use it as an excuse to do community outreach – to individuals and to organizations.

A report like this is a great excuse to convene a community discussion and to make some connections along the way.

Especially if your chapter is interested in diversifying your supporter base, diverse panels often attract – surprise!– a diverse audience. Given this report’s emphasis on policy, health, and law enforcement you may consider hosting:

  • an elected official;
  • a health researcher, healthcare provider, or healthcare official (e.g. medical health officers);
  • a representative from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; and/or
  • someone who is put at risk of criminalization or adverse health outcomes by traditional drug policies (e.g. youth, people who use drugs, someone who became HIV positive as a result of drug use, etc.).

Needless to say, an event like this is a great excuse to reach out to organizations working in various areas of public health or policymakers who are passionate public health advocates.

Some suggestions:
  • Consider joining forces with an AIDS, harm reduction, or mental health organization in your area to work with you as a co-host (let’s be honest, event promotion is always easier when you’re pulling on two networks). 
  • If you want suggestions re: who to approach in your area, feel free to contact the CSSDP national office by email ( or Twitter for suggestions and/or an introduction. 
  • As always, when you approach speakers, it’s helpful to have approximate dates, times, and themes picked out in advance so that they can commit to you or offer someone else who may be more appropriate/available right away.
3. Write a letter to the editor – it never goes out of style.
The more letters editorial board receives on the topic, the more compelled they will be to publish at least one of them. So put your voice in writing, keeping the following in mind:

Whatever you do – good luck! Let us know what you do or organize and what the response is like. And remember, the national CSSDP office is here to help – let us know how we can help you plan, promote, or celebrate any of your efforts.