Almost 100 years after the League of Nations’ first law on narcotics (drugs), the International Opium Convention of 1912, a report released yesterday, June 2, 2011, says the global war on drugs is a failure and governments need to initiate other policies, including legalizing marijuana and other currently controlled substances.
The report, War on drugs by the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP), a think tank that includes former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, the current prime minister of Greece, the past presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, along with distinguished world leaders and statesmen, said “the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world”.
Commissioner Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and co-founder of The Elders, United Kingdom, said: “The war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage, but has filled our jails, cost millions in tax payer dollars, fueled organized crime and caused thousands of deaths. We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organized crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals.”
According to former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss “Overwhelming evidence from Europe, Canada and Australia now demonstrate the human and social benefits both of treating drug addiction as a health rather than criminal justice problem and of reducing reliance on prohibitionist policies.”
War on drugs recommends governments “invest in activities that can both prevent young people from taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems”.
It recommends governments “focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations”, while “law enforcement efforts should focus not on reducing drug markets per se but rather on reducing their harms to individuals, communities and national security”.
No war on drugs means no WHO & US government aid money
In the USA the Obama administration and the Mexican government – who are in the midst of a 4 1/2 -year-old drug war against cartels that has seen more than 38,000 people killed in Mexico – immediately dismissed the report’s recommendations, with White House Office of National Drug Control Policy spokesman Rafael Lemaitre saying, “making drugs more available will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe”.
However, commissioner and former Colombian president, Cesar Gaviria, said: “When you have 40 years of a policy [the term “war on drugs” was first used by US president Richard Nixon on June 17, 1971] that is not bringing results, you have to ask if it’s time to change it.”
Change won’t come easy in most parts of the world though as a requirement of membership of the World Health Organization and access to large pools of aid money, as well as to official aid from the US Government, requires recipients to criminalize cultivation, manufacture, extraction, preparation, possession, offering, offering for sale, distribution, purchase, sale, and/ or delivery of narcotics covered by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 and/ or the US Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Changes in 1986 to the US Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 require the President of the US to report to Congress the counter narcotic compliance of major narcotic-producing and transiting countries, with those that fail to comply liable to decertification and placing at risk US aid money and approval of multilateral loans.
Ideologically based drug laws flawed
First enacted in 1961 and tracing its origins back to the League of Nations International Opium Convention of 1912, the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs treaty forms the basis of many member states individual national drug policies, including the US Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and the United Kingdom’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, both of which were drafted to fulfill treaty obligations and contain parallel methods of drug scheduling.
However, the Commission says governments should “replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights, recommending they “review the scheduling of drugs that has resulted in obvious anomalies like the flawed categorization of cannabis, coca leaf and MDMA” as a priority.
Cannabis was first regulated in 1928 by an amendment vigorously championed by the US Government to the International Opium Convention, with the same government largely responsible for Cannabis being listed in the same category as opium, coca, and derivatives, such as morphine, heroin, and cocaine, in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs bill in 1961. ( Continues … )
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