International workshop: Toward a Global Shift in Drug Policy ?

3-4 December 2015 – University of Neuchâtel


                                Replay of the public conference (03.12.2015 - 18:00)


During the past five years, the political debate on the failure of the 'war on drugs' and on a possible shift in drug policies from criminal punishment toward a legalization and a public health approach has emerged as a central issue of global governance. Rethinking drug policies is not only part of the diplomatic agenda of supranational alliances or multilateral organizations - such as the United Nations or the Organization of American States - but it is also notable through the rise of innovative drug policies launched by countries, regions and cities. These local experiences interconnect and propel the circulation of political ideas, policy knowledge and new imaginaries related to the management of ‘the drug problem’.  

This international workshop discusses this very timely issue in two separate sessions:  

1. A public conference “ Should drugs be legalized? Current issues in drug policies in Switzerland and worldwide” , Thursday 3rd of December 2015 at 6.00 pm (Aula des Jeunes-Rives) with the participation of the former President of Switzerland Ruth Dreifuss, member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Jean-Félix Savary, secretary general of the Groupement Romand pour l’Etude des Addictions, and Olivier Guéniat, chief of judicial police in Neuchâtel and member of the Swiss Federal Commission on Drug Issues. This conference will take place in French, with a simultaneous translation in English.

2.   An interdisciplinary workshop “Toward a Global Shift in Drug Policy?” , focused on the empowerment of new discourses and new practices in drug policies, Friday 4th of December 2015 from 8.50 am to 6.40 pm (Room R.E.42). The workshop will bring together 15 scholars working on the genesis of recent debates on drug policies, innovative local initiatives and experiments, and the role of advocacy networks. The broader aim of the workshop is to better understand the processes that come into play in the creation of drug policies at different scales. It will explore the relations between local experiences and actors, on the one hand, and debates on drug polices situated at an international level, on the other hand.  

These two events correspond to the launch of a new research project at the Institute of Geography of the University of Neuchâtel on the circulation of innovative ideas and policies related to drugs at the global level. The event also connects to the competence center on mobility and migration at the Maison d’Analyse des Processus Sociaux (MAPS) and the NCCR Migration and Mobility.

  • Program

    December 3 2015 - Aula des Jeunes-Rives (FLSH Espace Louis-Agassiz 1)  

    18.00     Public meeting: “Should drugs be legalized? Current issues in drug policies in Switzerland and worldwide*

    * The conference will take place in French, with a simultaneous translation in English.


    • Ruth Dreifuss, Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, former President of Switzerland
    • Jean-Félix Savary, Secretary general of Groupement Romand pour l’Etude des Addictions – GREA (Western Switzerland Association for the Studies of Addictions)
    • Olivier Guéniat, Chief of Judicial Police in Neuchâtel, member of the Swiss Federal Commission on Drug Issues (FCDI)


    December 4 2015 - Room R.E.42 (FLSH Espace Louis-Agassiz 1)  

    Interdisciplinary workshop “Toward a Global Shift in Drug Policy?” ** 

    ** The workshop will take place exclusively in English.


    08.30     Coffee 

    08.50     Welcome: Ola Söderström

    09.00     Keynote: Eugene McCann, Simon Fraser University

    •  Urban sites and global shifts: Placing the politics of harm reduction drug policy

    10.00     Coffee break

    10.20     Session 1: Actors, spaces and strategies

    • 10.20     Cristina Temenos (Northeastern University): Drug policy activism and differential mobilities: Exploring the spatial strategies of transnational advocacy networks
    • 10.40     Julian Bloomer (Trinity College Dublin): A political ecology approach to extra-legal livelihood strategies: the cultivation and trade of cannabis in rural Lesotho
    • 11.00     Julie de Dardel (University of Neuchatel): The bitter diagnosis of the ‘war on drugs’: how academics contribute to the radical shift in the moral economy of drug policies
    • 11.20     Discussant: Eugene McCann
    • Discussion

    11.40     Keynote: Julia Buxton, Central European University

    • More Harm than Good: the development impacts of counter narcotics policies

    12.40     Lunch break

    14.20     Session 2: Policies and innovations

    • 14.20     Zoe Pearson (Ohio State University): Drug Policy Implications of “Coca Yes, Cocaine No” in Bolivia
    • 14.40     Tania Pinc (University of Rio de Janeiro): How Governments Measure Success in Drug Law Enforcement: the Use of Police Performance Indicators in Brazil, Chile and Argentina
    • 15.00     Bengt Kayser (University of Lausanne): War on drugs, war on doping: similarities, differences, opportunities and risks
    • 15.20     Discussant: Julia Buxton
    • Discussion         

    15.40     Keynote 6: David Bewley-Taylor, University of Swansea

    • Contemporary Challenges to the International Drug Control Regime: Markets, Knowledge and Increasing Systemic Tensions

    16.40     Coffee break    

    17.00     Session 3: Marijuana regulation: emerging policies

    • 17.00     Barbara Broers (University of Geneva): The “medical social club”: a model for access to medical cannabinoid in Switzerland?
    • 17.20     Anne Philibert (University of Geneva): A sociological perspective on cannabis regulation policies
    • 17.40     Guzman Castro (University of Pennsylvania): States on Drugs: Prohibitionism’s Global Crisis and Legal Marijuna in Uruguay
    • 18.00     Discussant: David Bewley-Taylor
    • Discussion

    18.20     Synthesis and concluding comments by Sandro Cattacin


  • Practical information

    The participation to the public conference and the workshop is free of charge and open to the public.

    Deadline for registration: December 1st 2015 (Registration here)


    Institut de Géographie

    Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines (FLSH) de l’Université de Neuchâtel

    Espace Louis-Agassiz 1

    2000 Neuchâtel


    Thursday December 3rd, 6.00 pm : Aula des Jeunes-Rives

    Friday December 4th, from 8.50 am to 6.40 pm : Room R.E.42  

    The FLSH is 10 minutes’ walk from Neuchâtel train station :  

  • Registration

    Registration deadline : December 1st 2015


    Registration here

  • Contact

    Scientific organization:
    Julie de Dardel (julie.dedardel@unine.ch) & Ola Söderström (ola.soderstrom@unine.ch)

    Practical questions:
    Secretariat of the Institute of Geography (
    secretariat.geographie@unine.ch )

    Tél. : + 41 (0) 32 718 18 12


Pictures of the workshop