Thursday, July 02, 2009

UN drugs policy further out on a bending limb

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has aroused widespread criticism by stubbornly championing continuing prohibition in its latest annual report.

Its executive director, Antonio Maria Costa, is however finding it difficult to maintain his arguments in the face of growing opposition. His commentary shows it, falling into self-contradiction laced with evidence-free assertions.

"Illicit drugs pose a danger to health. That's why drugs are, and must remain, controlled," he says.

Well they are in fact a much worse danger to health under prohibition but Costa's assertion that drugs are controlled is ludicrous. Who is controlling, for example, the heroin that flows through Kings Cross each day? Not the police, health authorities or the tax department. Who, Mr Costa?

The fact that drug supply has soared thousands of percent since the War on Drugs started is dismissed with the frequently repeated statement that drug use has "stabilised", evidence that prohibition is working.

This could equally be seen another way -- that prohibited drugs are so freely available that pretty much everyone in the world who wants to use them is already doing so. Thus, demand has stabilised. It would also rebut Costa's assertion that legal, controlled availability would "unleash a drug epidemic". Costa presents no evidence for that -- it just would, he says.

Costa's nonsense is up against some powerful new voices though. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) now includes over 13,000 ex cops, judges and the like and adds a new gravitas to the debate.

There's a succinct commentary on this from Greg Barns in the Mercury, which I have drawn from here. He urges Australian police, politicians and courts to study LEAP's position and end the nonsense that is filling our jails to no good effect.

More on Costa later!

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