At this year’s Reform conference, SSDP partnered with CSSDP and SSDP UK to host a simulation of the upcoming Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. This event provided students with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the workings and intricacies of the drug policy reform movement on the international level.

The Model UNGASS took place over two days. On Day 1, three committees convened, each with the goal of producing a series of recommendations which the General Assembly would consider on Day 2. These were the Committees on Drugs and Health, Drugs and Crime, and Human Rights and Alternative Development. The member states of each committee were tasked with weighing in on and proposing recommendations within the scope of their committee. All participating students were required to study and prepare a brief on their country’s policy and stances on drug laws, allowing them to act and vote in accordance not with their personal views but with that of the country they represented.

The Committee on Drugs and Health emerged with several successful recommendations from Canada, which called for the expansion of syringe exchange programs, increased access to naloxone, increased access to medical cannabis, and a reformation of drug sentencing laws that is in accordance with a view of drug use as a public health issue, rather than one of criminal justice. Other recommendations passed by the committee were supportive of a wide range of policy measures, including the decriminalizing drug consumption and possession, expanding safe and supervised drug consumption programs, improving and expanding of services available to treat dependence, and eliminating the death sentence as well as mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offences. Member states in this country passed a large number of recommendations, seeming to have effectively found many points of agreement.

The Committee on Human Rights and Alternative Development similarly seemed to find more points of agreement than disagreement. Here, Canadian delegates passed two recommendations: one to legalize the production and exportation of industrial hemp, and the other to legalize and regulate cannabis, with its taxation aimed at funding public drug education programs. Other countries passed recommendations which sought to grant licit opium production rights to Afghanistan in order to combat

The Committee on Drugs and Crime though was significantly more divided. Here the Latin American countries tried tirelessly to pass policies to end the policy of coca eradication in countries like Colombia. The debate was strong and diverse with countries working on compromises through amendments that might be acceptable for just enough people to pass their agenda. Of the four recommendations made, the only recommendation that was able to get passed and reviewed on the second day was one that was aimed at creating a standard for asset seizure and money laundering, which was unanimously accepted.

On day 2, all of the committees came together to focus on the recommendations made the day before. CSSDP Co-chair Gonzo Nieto took on the role of notetaker in the room so that recommendations and subsequent amendments were visible to all of delegates as changes were made to the recommendations. Each country had one vote available to them. Unlike day 1, day 2 was primarily focused on either the passing or failing of each recommendation. The Canadian delegation represented by CSSDP Algonquin chapter leader Heather D’Alessio and Personnel Liaison Alexander Betsos worked on passing the recommendations made by the Canadian team prior and were able to get most of their recommendations from the day before passed. Due to the sheer volume of recommendations and the time limit at the conference not all of the recommendations had time to be read and that discussed. Details on the recommendations approved by the General Assembly on Day 2 can be found here.

The Model UNGASS was an excellent introduction to the world of international drug policy reform for many of our Reform attendees. It helped foster a greater awareness of the issues that need attention at the international level and highlighted the necessity of inter-country collaboration to build a common base of support for new policies. We hope to collaborate on more initiatives like this in the future with SSDP and SSDP UK!