'Legalize Drugs Now!' Kofi Annan Calls For End of Drug War
In a long and impassioned essay, Annan described how the War on Drugs, and the harsh retributive methods with which it is enforced, has created a breeding ground for an international criminal market that “fuels violence, corruption and instability.” Currently, policy is based on ideological and political factors, instead of being based on scientific evidence. It is a paradigm that has resulted in drugs like cannabis being treated over harshly, or having their medical potentials blocked by populist politicians trying to appear hard on drugs.
As things stand, billions of dollars are spent each year globally trying to eradicate drug use and incarcerating those that use them – trillions have already been wasted. The idea is that drug use will be driven down, but if anything, it has risen. It has resulted in millions of people having their lives destroyed through incarceration and the permanent criminal record that goes with it. It has also caused an insane level of loss of life, even among those who have nothing to do with the drug trade – simply getting caught in the crossfire of the War on Drugs as collateral damage. You only need look at Mexico, where cartels battle the state, causing thousands of deaths.
THE FOUR STEPS
Not only has Annan demanded an immediate halt to current ideological policy, but has also set out four steps to achieving it and changing the world for the better:
“First, we must decriminalize personal drug use.
Second, we need to accept that a drug-free world is an illusion.
Third, we have to look at regulation and public education rather than the total suppression of drugs, which we know will not work.
The fourth and final step is to recognize that drugs must be regulated precisely because they are risky.”
They are fairly simple steps, yet will take a monumental effort and work to enact. It would require a fundamental shift in the way the world views drugs, encouraging an emphasis on harm reduction, rather than incarceration.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: THE UN SPECIAL ASSEMBLY
This essay on why the War on Drugs needs to end, from one of the most influential public figures of our age, could not have come at a better time. This April, the UN will be convening for a special assembly on global drug policy – the first time such an assembly has been held in decades. It is here that the overarching laws and goals that all member states have to follow are set, making it an extremely significant event.
The last time the assembly was held, everyone was optimistic about the War on Drugs, and set unobtainable goals for the complete eradication of drug use. The slogan for the event was even “A drug-free world – we can do it!” It is an ethos that has dictated global drug policy over the last 20 years and shaped the failure that we all realise today.
There are an increasing number of influential figures calling for change, and there are even governments already taking things into their own hands - walking a fine line of legality with the current UN treaties. We can hope that this assembly will change the way the global movement on drugs thinks, and not dig their heels in and cause the world to suffer for another 20 years. Things are looking good, with most countries recognising a need for change, but we will see. Even if a positive outcome is reached, we will not see imitate change in policy; likely, we will see a framework set out for the drafting of new treaties, which will then be deliberated on for a period of time, before being ratified. This would be the best case scenario, and would open up all member states to be much more flexible with their drug policy than they currently can be.
There is a growing voice shouting for a need to change. It is a change that may not be very far away.
Written by: Josh
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