The International Narcotics Control Board yesterday presented its annual report for 2010. Every year the Board selects a thematic issue of focus, dedicating its opening chapter to that issue. This year it is corruption. In an earlier blog post we asked whether the INCB would have the impartiality to be able to look at the drug control system itself, and its role in the generation of corruption, as the UNODC had done in 2008. The answer is no. At no point is the international criminal market in drugs recognised as a creation of drug control.
While Copenhagen managed to convince the government to let them open a legal injection room to improve the living conditions of drug addicts, they have had less luck tackling the organised crime associated with the cannabis trade – the mayor wants to legalise cannabis, but the government has said ‘no’. So how does the city’s mayor, Frank Jensen (Socialdemo-kraterne), hope to tackle these issues? The Copenhagen Post interviewed him to find out.
President Obama signed legislation on Tuesday reducing sentencing disparities between those caught with crack and those arrested with powder cocaine. The legislation was a compromise reached by Democrats and Republicans who agreed that the old law imposed unduly harsh sentences for crack violations, which especially affected minorities, compared with powder cocaine violations. Under the old law, a person caught with five grams of crack received a mandatory five years in prison, while a person caught with powder cocaine had to have 500 grams to merit the same term. The new law reduces the 100-to-1 disparity to 18-to-1.
Last week Professor Roger Pertwee called for cannabis to be licensed for sale, and now Tim Hollis, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead officer on drugs, has said the current criminalisation-based approach to policing cannabis use should be reviewed. Pertwee and Hollis are bringing a welcome breath of fresh air to the debate about drugs and the harm they do. The government now has the chance to take a genuinely science-based approach to drugs policy.
Sixty-five percent of Germans say they would reject relaxing laws restricting the production, sale and consumption of marijuana, according to the study conducted by opinion pollsters Forsa for Stern magazine. Just under a third of those asked (29 percent) would like to see the drug legalized, while six percent said they have no opinion on the issue. Among supporters of the Green Party, those in favour of legalization jumped up to 51 percent. The poll of 1,003 Germans will come as a blow to Berlin Green politician Monika Herrmann, who is battling to open a Dutch-style coffee shop in the capital.
The HCLU’s video advocacy team attended the 54th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. They asked both Mr. Yuri Fedotov, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and his NGO critics about the 50 years of drug prohibition – watch the short film to find out what they said!
Recently, the UNODC has begun to take notice of the impact of its counternarcotics work on human rights. Antonio Maria Costa, the current executive director, has set out a series of recommendations for internal reform intended to improve the agency's human rights performance. This leadership on human rights is very welcome, and much needed, but it may already be under threat. Costa leaves his post at the end of July. Unfortunately, the current frontrunner for the role of UN drug tsar is the candidate being pushed by the Russian government.
Damon Barrett (Deputy Director at Harm Reduction International)
04 April 2012
When the UN's drugs watchdog, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), was asked recently about its official position on torture carried out in the name of drug enforcement, one would have expected an unequivocal denunciation. Instead, what was given was an unequivocal refusal to do so. In the light of documented cases of torture to extract information from suspects and to punish drug users and those convicted of drug offences, this refusal to condemn the most egregious of human rights abuses is cause for serious concern and highlights clear tensions between the UN human rights and drug control regimes.
In a country that regulates the sale of over-the-counter painkillers, you’d have thought that a reasonable way to decriminalise the sale of cannabis would have long since been rolled out, perfected and exported to other cities grappling with the same topic. Yet, to the annoyance of the city – and perhaps to the surprise of those more familiar with the country’s progressive reputation – cannabis remains on the wrong side of the law.
Tom Blickman, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
28 March 2012
This year the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first international opium convention. What the UN drug czar said about these 100 years, is it a success story? Did NGO delegates agree with him? What is the significance of the speech Evo Morales, president of Bolivia made at the CND? What are the chances of the drug reform movement in Latin-America? What is the impact of CND resolutions in general? The HCLU's video advocacy team attended the CND and ask these burning questions. Watch the new movie to learn the answers from Yuri Fedotov, Gil Kerlikowske, Martin Jelsma, Damon Barret, Allen Clear and Mike Trace.
This week, representatives from many nations will gather at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna to determine the appropriate course of the international response to illicit drugs. Delegates will debate multiple resolutions while ignoring a truth that goes to the core of current drug policy: human rights abuses in the war on drugs are widespread and systematic.
A worldwide arms race has erupted between inventive street chemists who concoct "legal" highs and government officials who wish to regulate and interdict the proliferation of synthetic cannabis products that can send their users to an emergency room or the morgue. In Arkansas officials view the problem as severe enough that they have now deployed a network of federally funded laboratories within their state (in collaboration with state and private laboratories) to keep tabs on the protean ingenuity of street chemists, who reformulate these drugs faster than governments can pass regulations to control them.