Just Say No — the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Just back from the annual United Nations happy-clappy ses­sion about drug pro­hib­i­tion in Vienna, the Com­mis­sion on Nar­cotic Drugs.  I was there as part of the del­eg­a­tion from Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP), a global cam­paign of serving and former police officers, law­yers, judges, intel­li­gence officers, cus­toms officers and prison gov­ernors, all with years of exper­i­ence on the front line of the drug war, and all of whom cam­paign against prohibition.

Why do they do this? Pre­cisely because they have, dur­ing their pro­fes­sional lives, wit­nessed the ter­rible fail­ure of the drug pro­hib­i­tion laws.

LEAP’s mes­sage is simple, logical and power­ful, and its mem­ber­ship cred­ible and exper­i­enced — have a look at the web­site.

The UN del­eg­a­tion con­sisted of former US drug pro­sec­utor Jim Gier­ach, retired Brazilian judge Maria Lucia Pereira Karam, award-winning US prison super­in­tend­ent Rick Van Wick­ler, and myself.

Need­less to say, LEAP and all this breadth of rel­ev­ant expert­ise was mar­gin­al­ised at the UN.

Un_system_chart_colourThe UN is the sine qua non of bur­eau­cra­cies, an organ­isa­tion of such Byz­antine com­plex­ity it makes your eyes bleed to look at it.

Each coun­try around the world funds the UN via vol­un­tary dona­tions. Once they have coughed up, they are allowed to send national del­eg­ates to rep­res­ent “their” interests at shindigs such as the CND. Those del­eg­ates are pre-briefed by their bur­eau­crats about the line they must take, and no dis­sent is allowed.

NGOs are notion­ally able to feed in their views to their del­eg­ates, although access is lim­ited, and over the last few years the lan­guage of the CND has indeed moved towards harm reduc­tion and children’s rights.  But this merely propag­ates the basic, flawed premise that “drugs” are bad, not that the “war on drugs” has com­pre­hens­ively failed, is ill-thought out, and act­ively dam­ages society.

3_wise_monkeysUN decisions on drug policy are made by con­sensus, which means that there is no real demo­cratic debate and that the res­ol­u­tions are so bland as to be mean­ing­less.  At no point what­so­ever are evidence-based altern­at­ive solu­tions, such as reg­u­lated leg­al­isa­tion, even whispered in the cor­ridors of power.

The CND’s key achieve­ment this year was to get all the nations to reaf­firm their com­mit­ment to the 100-year old Inter­na­tional Hague Con­ven­tion, the first drug pro­hib­i­tion law in a long and escal­at­ing legal lit­any of fail­ure and harm.  And this in the teeth of all evid­ence provided by the suc­cess­ful decrim­in­al­isa­tion exper­i­ments in Por­tugal, Switzer­land and the Neth­er­lands.

So here’s where the fun kicks in, but I stress that this is my highly per­sonal take on what it was like to attend the CND last week:

.….….

WARNING: CND appears to be a potent psy­cho­tropic drug which has unknown and poten­tially dam­aging effects on the human brain.  Expos­ure to CND for even so short a period as a week can lead to dis­or­i­ent­a­tion, numb­ness, depres­sion and a dis­lo­ca­tion from real­ity.  No data exists about the long-term psy­cho­lo­gical effects of pro­longed expos­ure, but some sub­jects can dis­play unchar­ac­ter­istic aggres­sion after only a couple of days’ exper­i­ence of CND.

CND appears to be highly addict­ive lead­ing to rapid depend­ency, and del­eg­ates return year after year for another hit. For a week, it’s party time, but then comes the crash­ing low, as they have to push CND on their own coun­tries for another long year, against all com­mon notions of decency, human­ity and community.

CND is con­tinu­ally presen­ted to vul­ner­able del­eg­ates as the only life­style choice.  Those who ques­tion its effic­acy are out­cast from the gang.  But what of the del­eg­ates’ rights to live a CND-free life, away from the peer pres­sure, bul­ly­ing and viol­ence?  What about redu­cing the harm that CND increas­ingly causes to com­munit­ies across the world?

As the god­fath­ers of CND push the line of harm reduc­tion pro­grammes, devel­op­ing coun­tries are increas­ingly drawn into a life of sor­did “money depend­ency”, even pros­ti­tut­ing them­selves polit­ic­ally to enable their con­tin­ued reli­ance on CND.

The organ­isa­tions con­trolling CND garner huge profits, and there is little polit­ical will to change the cur­rent set-up.

.….….

So, a win-win for the drug car­tels, ter­ror­ists, enforce­ment agen­cies, gov­ern­ments, bur­eau­crats and the wider global “drug war” infrastructure.

Not so good for the rest of us.

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