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Redefining Drug Offences in Southeast Asia

Marcus Baltzer

(2018) 30 SAcLJ 776

In the global debate around drug policy and its interface with criminal justice, there is a wide spectrum of viewpoints. At the one end, there is the idea that the drug market can be minimised, even eradicated, by deterring people from taking part in it. At the opposite end of the spectrum it is argued that high deterrence policies (sometimes associated with “the war on drugs”) have been an epic failure, and that the best way to manage drug markets is to legalise and regulate them with a view to mitigating the harm caused. This article puts forward an alternative, which would satisfy constituencies demanding the retention of high deterrence policies, yet avoid many of their costly side effects. This could be achieved by defining drug offences with reference to the role of a person in the drug industry, as opposed to defining drug offences mainly or exclusively with reference to the quantity of drugs that a person is in possession of. This option would allow criminal justice resources to be concentrated on offenders with a leading role in the drug industry while freeing up the vast resources that are currently being spent pursuing offenders who have relatively minor roles.