More Than 200 Organizations Demand UN Admit Drug War Failure

Guy Bentley | Research Associate, Reason Foundation

More than 200 civil society groups from across the world released a statement Monday condemning governments for their failures to acknowledge “devastating consequences of punitive and repressive drug policies.”

World leaders will convene in New York in April to discuss the future of global drug policy. It will be the first time in 20 years the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) will meet.

“The global community had high hopes for this important opportunity for a considered re-think of how to control drugs, but by denying the realities on the ground and failing to admit a new approach is required, governments are at risk of squandering this rare moment,” Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“This is an urgent issue. The focus on police and military actions to combat drug trafficking has impacted many communities, reaching levels of violence in some cases equivalent to civil war,” Luciana Pol, Senior Fellow Security Policy and Human Rights at Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), told TheDCNF “The UNGASS cannot repeat the same old formulas. This is the time for the UN system to show its solid commitment to peace, human rights, and public health.”

The groups that have signed the letter demand the world’s governments accept that the last 50 years of the war on drugs have been a total failure. They point to widespread crime and violence from Mexico to Afghanistan and the enrichment of organized crime to backup the request.

Governments and the UN have failed to ensure an inclusive and transparent preparatory process, and instead vested interests and a small group of regressive member states have dominated the negotiations. Challenges to the status quo, even from member states and many UN agencies, have been marginalized and dissent stifled.

“There is a fundamental problem with current drug policy, where billions of dollars and thousands of lives are being lost in support of ineffective trends such as mass incarceration — rather than productive policy focused on research and treatment,” Trek Hollnagel, Co-Founder of Dope Magazine, told TheDCNF.

“Here, we have a great opportunity to repeal the global drug policy hindering the ability of countries to adequately address the changing conversation surrounding drugs, including the very important issue of medical cannabis.”

The signatories to the letter believe the UN has consistently allowed vested interests and a small number of states to obstruct drug policy reform.

“It’s admirable that the U.N. is convening for a special session to address an issue as critical as drug policy; however, it is vital that they make it a true discussion of improvement to state and national governmental regulations. An open forum with concrete solutions and discussion of criticism can offer significant opportunity for progress on this topic,” said Mike Bologna, co-Founder at Green Lion Partners, a consulting firm to legal cannabis businesses in the U.S.

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