West African experts call for drugs decriminalisation

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Two men at a temporary detention cell at a judicial police office on November 14, 2008 in BissauA panel of experts called Thursday for minor drugs offences to be decriminalised in west Africa, where trafficking, consumption and production is undermining development and causing a public health crisis. The West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) said current policies were fuelling corruption in a region where the cocaine trade alone, estimated at $1.25 billion (920 million euros) a year, dwarfs the combined budgets of several countries. “We call on west African governments to reform drug laws and policies and decriminalise low-level and non-violent drug offences,” commission chairman Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, told reporters in Dakar. “West Africa is no longer just a transit zone for drugs arriving from South America and ending up in Europe but has become a significant zone of consumption and production.