A leaked draft of the United Nations’ latest long-term strategy document for combating illegal drugs shows that countries from Latin America and Europe want to end the “war on drugs” model and transition to a public health model focused on decriminalization and looking “beyond prohibition.” This leaked document provides new insight into the international community’s growing revolt over the exclusively prohibitionist policies set by the United States.
This draft document, normally kept hidden until all disagreements have been worked out for the final copy, provides the discussion for the UN’s scheduled 2014 high-level statement on drug policy, which itself would form the basis for the UN’s 2016 General Assembly Review that would set international drug policy for the following decade. This leaked draft showing major disagreement with US drug policy follows up on the Organization of American States calling for “market solutions” to hemispheric drug policies, especially concerning cannabis.
In Latin America, Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala have expressed that total drug prohibition keeps the dangerous drug cartels in power. Ecuador directly asks the UN to end prohibition, asking for “more effective results in addressing the world drug problem” and “deliberations on different approaches that could be more efficient and effective.” Venezuela wants the UN to examine “economic implications” of the “law enforcement approach in tackling the world drug problem.”
In Europe, Switzerland wants the UN to note that decades of prohibition have meant “[drug] consumption prevalence has not been reduced significantly and that the consumption of new psychoactive substances has increased in most regions of the world.” Norway wants to ask the UN about “decriminalisation and a critical assessment of the approach represented by the so-called war on drugs.” And the European Union as a bloc tells the UN, “Drug users should be entitled to access to treatment, essential medicines, care and related support services.”
The drug war façade is beginning to crumble. Since 1961, when the efforts of first drug czar Harry J. Anslinger prompted the UN to create the Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs, the international policy on drugs has been the US policy on drugs - prohibition, criminalization, and eradication. But now, the Latin American countries that suffer prohibition violence and the European countries that suffer drug addiction are ready to begin a new policy that recognizes the realities of drug use and drug markets. This leaked document shows the US to increasingly be the outlier, clinging on to the failed prohibitionist policies of the 20th Century as the rest of the world confronts the realities of the 21st.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."