War vs Legalization?

A Humane Solution on Drugs

April 26th, 2016

The “War on drugs” policy is proved to be insufficient and has more harms than goods. For the initiation of Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia - the three countries which suffer more of the violence from narco-trafficking - the United Nations General Assembly brought forward its second special session on drugs to April 2016. The first Assembly was held almost two decades ago, in 1998, where the then leaders decided a prohibitionist policy banning narcotic uses, with a slogan “drug free world - we can do it”. Now, the Latin American Presidents are calling for back prohibitionist policies and move beyond effective prevention.

In Mexico, between 2010 and 2016 life expectancy felt by more than half a year for man for narco-trafficking related murders. The criminalization focused solution led to health crisis, mass incarceration, corruption and violence. By giving a greater priority to punishment than health and human rights, the war on drugs became the war on people. Still, there is no global consensus about giving up repressive responses and focusing on prevention, rehabilitation and re-socialization. While increasing number of countries liberalize drug laws, especially around marijuana, in Indonesia, China or Iran the rules are notoriously strict, using death penalty as an important component of their regulation. The Summit tried to rethink global strategy to achieve the best possible results, but as we see there are divisions among the members. From the other side, we can mention Australia, Canada or Uruguay, which will be the first country in the world to legalize sales of marijuana.

The prohibition created a parallel economy run by criminal networks, who have no concerns about health or safety, and when the police forces succeed in one area, drug producers simply move to another region, making it necessary to refocus the regional approach on drug control. By the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos’s opinion - whose country is close to reaching an agreement to close the 60-year-old armed conflict with Farc - between total war and legalization there exists a broad range of opinions. Also, the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto is considering the decriminalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana and the legalization of medical uses. According to the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s article in Der Spiegel, there is no link between the harshness of a country’s drug laws and its level of drug use. We know from the evidence from the US that, where cannabis has been legalized, there has been no explosion on drug use and the size of the black market reduced. Considering all these facts, he suggests the legalization of sale of cannabis for recreational uses.

Against all the efforts, the agreement maintains the prohibitionist policy, contains no criticism of the death penalty for drug crimes and does nothing to address the continued use of execution, also it avoids the world “harm reduction”. On the other hand, it calls on the nations to consider programs such as needle exchange, which is a clear progress.

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Cultural Diplomacy News
Bettina Kovacs, CD News Team