United Nations Asked to Change International Drug Laws

While the United Nation prepares for the first time in nearly two decades to examine the staleness of international drug law, advocates from all over the world have joined forces in an attempt to persuade the global governance to reform the policies that bind individual nations to a standard of prohibition.

This furious legion of activists, which consists of more than 100 influential organizations, submitted a declaration on Tuesday demanding that world leaders allow governments to make changes to their country’s drug laws without repercussion.

“Existing US and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations,” reads the letter backed by groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “The criminalization of personal drug use and possession for personal use infringes on the right to privacy and basic principles of autonomy on which other rights rest.”

The letter, drafted by the folks at StoptheDrugWar.org, comes just as the United Nations is set to gather in New York for its “High-Level Thematic Debate on the World Drug Problem,” which will serve as a preliminary analysis of global drug policies that will be heard before the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in 2016. There is speculation that more nations, including the United States, would be more compelled to revamp antiquated drug laws if international powers weren’t ready to dry hump them into submission for noncompliance to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The belief among advocates is that the current incarcerate and kill philosophies that have transformed the global War on Drugs into a soggy pair of clown shoes needs to be replaced with principles that can begin to repair a system in a state of post-apocalyptic stress.

“The veneer of consensus that for so long sustained the failed global drug war and insulated it from critical examination is now broken,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement.  “The stage is being set for a new global drug control paradigm for the 21st century better grounded in science, health and human rights.”

This global alliance is calling for the United Nations to create a special panel to dissect the international drug laws in an effort to recommend reform options to UNGLASS before the meeting next April.
As it stands, the United States and Uruguay are pushing the boundaries of statutes outlined in the Single Convention by allowing the legalization of recreational marijuana. In March, the International Narcotics Control Board, which polices UN drug conventions, even went so far as to announce that they were closely monitoring the legalization efforts in both countries due to some of their policies being “inconsistent” with international law. The policies allow the production and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but prohibit it from being used as a social inebriant.

Essentially, the proposal suggests that U.N. treaties should give governments the flexibility to reform their drug laws without committing of breach of U.N. conventions.

“In case of irreconcilable conflict, human rights principles, which lie at the core of the United Nations charter, should take priority over provisions of the drug conventions,” reads the letter. “Accommodating … experiments … with legalization and regulation of internationally controlled substances may require that the UN drug conventions are interpreted in light of countries’ international human rights and other obligations.”

While the legalization of marijuana is at the center of the international drug reform debate, the increasing violence brought down by the illegal drug trade is an issue the organization intends to also address. A number of organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance and New York Harm Reduction Educators, will gather on the steps of the UN to protest the recent execution of eight drug offenders in Indonesia, calling for an end to policies that continue to allow 30 countries to execute thousands of people every year for drug-related offenses.

“The recent executions in Indonesia of people charged with non-violent drug crimes are abhorrent,” Mike Selick, policy and participant action coordinator at New York Harm Reduction Educators, said in a statement. “As the United Nations holds a High-Level Thematic Debate on drugs, we stand united with organizations around the world to demand action to end the use of the death penalty for non-violent drug offenses.”

The protest at the U.N took place on Thursday.

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