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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Cops Take Pro-Legalization Message to UN War on Drugs Meeting

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Law Enfor­cers Say End­ing Pro­hib­i­tion Will Improve Glob­al Secur­ity & Human Rights

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – Judges, pro­sec­utors and jail­ers who sup­port leg­al­iz­ing drugs are bring­ing their mes­sage to the United Nations Com­mis­sion on Nar­cot­ic Drugs meet­ing next week in Vienna. At the U.N. ses­sion, which comes just days after the Obama admin­is­tra­tion stepped-up its attempts to coun­ter­act the emer­ging anti-pro­hib­i­tion sen­ti­ment among sit­ting pres­id­ents in Lat­in Amer­ica, the pro-leg­al­iz­a­tion law enforce­ment offi­cials will work to embolden nation­al del­eg­a­tions from around the world to push back against the U.S.-led failed “war on drugs.”

VanwicklerRichard Van Wick­ler, a cur­rently-serving jail super­in­tend­ent who will be rep­res­ent­ing Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) in Vienna, says, “World lead­ers who believe we could bet­ter handle drug prob­lems by repla­cing crim­in­al­iz­a­tion with leg­al con­trol are becom­ing less and less afraid of U.S. repris­al for speak­ing out or reform­ing their nations’ policies. And for good reas­on.”

Van Wick­ler, who has was named 2011’s Cor­rec­tions Super­in­tend­ent of the Year by the New Hamp­shire Asso­ci­ation of Counties, explains, “Voters in at least two U.S. states will be decid­ing on meas­ures to leg­al­ize marijuana this Novem­ber. It would be pure hypo­crisy for the Amer­ic­an fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to con­tin­ue force­fully push­ing a rad­ic­al pro­hib­i­tion­ist agenda on the rest of the world.”

In recent weeks, Pres­id­ents Otto Perez Molina of Guatem­ala, Juan Manuel San­tos of Colom­bia, Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica and Felipe Cal­der­on of Mex­ico have added their voices to the call for a ser­i­ous con­ver­sa­tion on altern­at­ives to drug pro­hib­i­tion, caus­ing U.S. Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden to travel to Lat­in Amer­ica this week in an unsuc­cess­ful attempt to quash the debate.

GierachFormer Chica­go drug pro­sec­utor James Gier­ach, recently a fea­tured speak­er at a con­fer­ence in Mex­ico City last month atten­ded by the first lady of Mex­ico and the former pres­id­ents of Colom­bia and Brazil, says, “The unend­ing cycle of car­tel viol­ence caused by the pro­hib­i­tion mar­ket has turned a steady trickle of former elec­ted offi­cials cri­ti­ciz­ing pro­hib­i­tion into a flood of sit­ting pres­id­ents, busi­ness lead­ers and law enforce­ment offi­cials call­ing for an out­right dis­cus­sion about leg­al­iz­a­tion. It’s time for the U.S. and the U.N. to acknow­ledge that leg­al con­trol, rather than crim­in­al­iz­a­tion, is a much bet­ter way to man­age our drug prob­lems. The world can have either drug pro­hib­i­tion, viol­ence and cor­rup­tion or it can have con­trolled drug leg­al­iz­a­tion with safe streets and mor­al fab­ric, but it can’t have both.”

The UN meet­ing in Vienna is an annu­al oppor­tun­ity for nations around the world to re-eval­u­ate drug con­trol strategies and treat­ies. More inform­a­tion about the meet­ing is here

In recent years, coun­tries like Por­tugal and Mex­ico have made moves to sig­ni­fic­antly trans­form crim­in­al­iz­a­tion-focused drug policies into health approaches by fully decrim­in­al­iz­ing pos­ses­sion of small amounts of all drugs. Still, no coun­try has yet to leg­al­ize and reg­u­late the sale of any of these drugs. Doing so, the pro-leg­al­iz­a­tion law enfor­cers point out, would be the only way to pre­vent viol­ent transna­tion­al crim­in­al organ­iz­a­tions from profit­ing in the drug trade.

Maria.KaramAlso attend­ing the con­fer­ence on behalf of LEAP will be former Brazili­an judge Maria Lucia Karam and former UK MI5 intel­li­gence officer Annie Machon.

Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) rep­res­ents police, pro­sec­utors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and oth­ers who sup­port leg­al­iz­a­tion after fight­ing on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and learn­ing firsthand that pro­hib­i­tion only serves to worsen addic­tion and viol­ence. More info can be found here.

CONTACT:

Tom Angell: 001 202 557‑4979 or media@leap.cc

Shaleen Title: 001 617 955‑9638 or speakers@leap.cc