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Why using the Legal Environment Scan is important for people who use drugs.

The Legal Environment Scan is a drug user-led monitoring toolkit designed for community organisations and their partners to support people who use drugs in assessing their legal and policy environment, developing appropriate recommendations for law and policy reform to remove barriers to access to essential HIV services and relevant health services, and raising awareness of those reforms.


A legal environment scan (LES) is a community-led participatory process that helps identify how laws, policies and practices affect health outcomes, human rights, wellbeing and livelihoods for people who use drugs. The aim of the LES is to review HIV, health, criminal and any other related laws, regulations, policies and practices to identify those which have a negative impact on access to HIV and harm reduction services for people who use drugs.

The LES is designed to provide you with an understanding of your country’s legal and policy frameworks. You will examine how these laws, policies and practices are implemented in your country to determine the extent to which the legal framework does or does not align with international agreements on human rights, other commitments related to the rights of people who use drugs and other commitments related to harm reduction services. The assessment tool focuses on three main topics: The extent to which laws criminalising illicit drug use are incompatible with human rights obligations; The extent to which any exceptions that may exist for purposes other than punishment (including for public health purposes) are implemented effectively; The level at which HIV prevention, treatment, care and support outreach activities target those who inject drugs.

Punitive drugs laws undermine the human rights of people who use drugs.

Drug laws and policies have traditionally sought to suppress supply and deter use through the application of punitive laws. Today, there is a growing recognition that these drug laws and policies have not only failed to reach their objectives but have resulted in a great deal of collateral damage. People who use drugs are mainly arrested and convicted for possession of a drug. Drug control efforts result in serious human rights abuses: torture and ill treatment by police, mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and denial of essential medicines and basic health services. 

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