A World with Drugs: Legal Regulation through a Development Lens

A Webinar Series

Drugs are a development issue. Let’s stop pretending that they’re not.


The so-called ‘war on drugs’ has been undermining progress towards development goals for decades. It has fuelled violence and conflict, undermined democracy, and driven poverty, inequality and poor health worldwide.

In collaboration with drug policy reform experts and organisations; International Drug Policy Consortium, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Transnational Institute, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Instituto RIA, and Interdisciplinary Centre for Cannabis Research, Health Poverty Action ran a series of webinars exploring how and why the legal regulation of drugs is vital for sustainable development.

Featuring speakers from the development sector, drug policy reform movement, and civil society, we explored how drug policies intersect with some of the most pressing issues facing the Global South today.

Community Participation and Legal Regulation

In this webinar, we explore how we can ensure that impacted communities participate in drug policy reform. We also discuss how legal regulation could protect their livelihoods, espouse social justice and promote equity and sustainable development. 


  1. Charan Sharma -Programme Manager: Drug Use & Harm Reduction Alliance India
  2. Kitty Chopaka – Independent Cannabis Advocate, Thailand
  3. Emma Campbell – Activist, Alliance for Choice, N. Ireland
  4. Ashish Kothari, Activist-researcher Kalpavriksh & Global Tapestry of Alternatives, India
  5. Shadia El Brahimi – Activist for Women’s Rights in Cannabis, Morocco

The Environment and Legal Regulation 

Global drug control has had devastating impacts on the environment. Enforced crop eradication, deforestation, aerial spraying and major disruption to ecosystems are all common consequences of the ‘war on drugs’  – and are often overlooked. In this webinar, we bring the voices of those affected by these issues and the environmental movement together to explore how the legal regulation of drugs provides an opportunity to reduce the destruction of finite natural resources. We discussed what a legally regulated drugs trade needs to do to support climate justice and protect the environment. 


  1.  Junior Spirit Cottle – Activist and President of the Cannabis Revival Committee, St Vincent and Grenadines 
  2. María Alejandra Vélez – Professor at Los Andes University and Director of Center for Studies on Safety and Drugs, Colombia
  3. Lorenzo Uribe – Lead Drafter of the Cocaine Regulation Bill in Colombia, Colombia
  4. Kenza Afsahi – Founder of The Cannabis Suds network and Lecturer at University of Bordeaux,  Morocco and France ( reserve speaker) 
  5. Katie Sandwell – Senior Project Officer in the Agrarian & Environmental Justice programme at Transnational Institute, The Netherlands

Sustainable Livelihoods 

In this webinar, we explore how people across the global South engage in the drugs trade throughout the supply chain and the impact of current prohibition policies on people’s ability to earn a living. Our speakers explore how the drugs trade can provide sustainable livelihoods for impacted communities, including through transitioning to legally regulated drug crop products. 


  • Jonathan Goodhand – Professor in Conflict and Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
  • Pien Metaal – Senior Project Officer at Transnational Institute
  • Miguel Samper Strouss – Colombian Lawyer and Politician in the Ministry of Justice
  • Junior Spirit Cottle – President of the Cannabis Revival Committee, St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Kacheeta Leanora Harry, Cannabis Farmer from St Vincent and the Grenadines

Tax Justice

Money from the drugs trade is hidden away in money laundering schemes and tax havens all over the globe. While those at the top of the trade have huge wealth, the communities most impacted by it see little of this money. The legal regulation of drugs provides us with an opportunity to rectify this

Furthermore, the legal regulation of drugs could generate billions in government revenue from taxation, which could be spent on repairing the harms of past drug policies and on vital public services like health and education.


  • Eric Gutierrez, Research Associate of International Centre of human rights and drug policy
  • Alison Holcomb, Political Director of American Civil Liberties Union of Washington
  • Martin Drewry, Director of Health Poverty Action
  • James Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer at Transform Drug Policy Foundation

Trade Justice 

In this webinar, we discuss how trade policies can protect the most vulnerable. We explore the lessons we can learn from Fair Trade practices and how this can be applied to a legally regulated drugs markets. 


  • Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now
  • Angelo, Chair of Pekhon Farmers Network
  • Zaw Htet Aung, Co-ordinator at Land in our Hands
  • Pauline Tiffin, Editor in Chief for the Journal for Fair Trade
  • Tom Blickman, Senior Project Officer at the Transnational Institute

Corporate Capture 

As we move towards the legal regulation of drugs, we risk growing the unaccountable power of corporations poised to exploit the drugs market – at the expense of the small-scale growers and traders whose livelihoods have long-depended on the trade. So what can be done to support small-scale growers and traders entering and competing in legally regulated markets? We investigate what needs to happen to prevent wealthy corporations – like Big Pharma – dominating the drugs trade, and how we can avoid further inflating corporate power.


  • Kassandra Federique – Executive Director for Drug Policy Alliance, USA
  • Dr Kojo Koram – Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck School of Law, UK
  • Pauline Tiffen – Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Fair Trade, UK
  • Zara Snapp – Co Founder Instituto RIA,  Mexico
  • Junior Spirit Cottle – President of the Cannabis Revival Committee, St Vincent and the Grenadines

Cultural, Traditional and Indigenous Rights


We dive into how the structures upholding the ‘war on drugs’ are rooted in racism and imperialism. For over 60 years, prohibition-based drug policies have disproportionately impacted BIPOC and people in the Global South. This has been done through racially targeted law enforcement, mass incarceration, crop spraying and crop eradication. Yet in many parts of the world, the growing and taking of drugs are central to people’s culture. 

We discuss how the legal regulation of drugs can instead ensure cultural, traditional and indigenous rights are placed at the heart of drug policy and help Leave No One Behind in efforts to achieve the SDGs. 


Drugs are a Development Issue. An Introduction to Legal Regulation


Helen Clark is the newly appointed Chair of the Global Commission on Drugs Policy. Helen has also served as Administrator of the United Nations Development Program and the Chair of the United Nations Development Group. Prior to her appointment with UNDP, Helen Clark was the first woman elected as Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three successive terms from 1999 to 2008. Helen Clark is a champion of inclusive and sustainable development and an advocate for drug policy reform. 

Philasande Mahlakata is Project Coordinator for Umzimvubu Farmers Support Network. UFSN is based in Mpondoland in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The network currently sits on the provincial government initiated steering committee for the development of the cannabis industry.

Dr Duncan Green is Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB and Professor in Practice in International Development at the London School of Economics. He is author of How Change Happens and From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States can Change the World.  He also writes a daily development blog.

Ann Fordham directs the work of International Drugs Policy Consortium. Ann leads on international advocacy efforts on drug policy and human rights, specifically calling for reform of laws and policies that have proven ineffective in reducing the scale of the drug market and have negatively impacted vulnerable population groups such as people who use drugs and growers of illicit crops. Ann is the Chair of the Strategic Advisory Group to the United Nations on drug use and HIV.

In the first of our 8 webinars, we launch with a rallying call to action.

Legal regulation has the potential to provide redress for the decades of untold misery and destroyed lives resulting from prohibition across the world. It is critical for sustainable development.

The development and drug policy reform movements must come together to push for the legal regulation of drugs – and ensure legal regulation that delivers for social justice, public health, and the SDGs.

Speakers include the International Drug Policy Consortium who will launch their  ‘Principles for the responsible legal regulation of cannabis’, a visionary document that places human rights, social justice, social equity and gender equality at the centre of a framework for legal regulation. While focused on cannabis, the principles are a helpful lens for all drug trades.  We are delighted to be using this framework as our guide on this series.

This webinar will further explore how legal regulation can be implemented to deliver for social justice and the SDGs –  setting the scene for the rest of the series.