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Drug Warriors Try to Censor their Opponents

Via Hit and Run comes this disturbing article by Ted Galen Carpenter at the Cato Institute.
He starts by talking about recent drug war censorship developments in the U.S. (such as Istook’s folly), and then moves to a more global perspective.

The most ominous proposal for repressing pro-drug reform speech comes (not surprisingly) from the United Nations. The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board has issued a report implicitly calling on member states to criminalize opposition to the war on drugs. Citing the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the INCB asserts that all governments are obligated to enact laws that prohibit “inciting” or “inducing” people to use illegal drugs and to punish such violations as criminal offenses.
If such a vague and chilling restriction on freedom of expression were not odious enough, the UN board contends that any portrayal that shows illicit drug use “in a favourable light” constitutes incitement and therefore should be banned as well. Since the report also repeatedly denounces medical marijuana initiatives as well as decriminalization or legalization proposals, even the most sedate advocacy of changing prohibitionist drug laws might run afoul of the censorship regime being pushed by the United Nations.

[Aside:] Here’s the actual referenced text from the 1988 UN Convention:

Article 3.1) Each Party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally:….
c) Subject to its constitutional principles and the basic concepts of its legal system:…
iii) Publicly inciting or inducing others, by any means, to commit any of the offences established in accordance with this article or to use narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances illicitly;
iv) Participation in, association or conspiracy to commit, attempts to commit and aiding, abetting, facilitating and counselling the commission of any of the offences established in accordance with this article.

Back to the Cato article:

It is not reassuring that the U.S. government has pledged to cooperate with the UN group’s global anti-drug efforts. Although Washington has not explicitly endorsed the censorship recommendations, neither has it stated that the United States rejects such proposals — even though it certainly could have added that caveat. Indeed, one official pledged “absolute cooperation” with the UN’s drug control programs.

This brings up something that I haven’t talked about too much at Drug WarRant: As we work to reform the drug laws in our countries, we must also work to do so internationally. If George Bush today directed the DEA to remove marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances and make its use legal (don’t hold your breath), we would immediately run afoul of international treaties. It is, in fact, international pressure that has created the bizarre situation in the Netherlands, where it is “legal” to use marijuana, but still illegal to sell it.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Narcotics Control Board (an “independent, quasi-judicial control organ for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions” – whatever that means) have been extremely gung-ho on the side of the drug warrriors – their membership has been controlled by appointments from high profile drug warrior countries.
It’s likely that it will take partial reform in a lot of countries to start to influence international treaties, but it’s also important to work toward reform in a number of different ways. Here’s something you can do right now, in just a few seconds: Sign the international appeal for an Anti-prohibitionist Reform of Drug Laws.

Do it now. Whatever your views are of the United Nations in other areas, this particular area is one that is clearly in need of serious reform. Unfortunately, it’s the one area that our government is enthusiasticlaly supporting, which speaks ill for our future.
Carpenter closes with:

Such examples suggest that some advocates of drug prohibition regard the “war” on drugs as more than a metaphor. Pervasive intolerance is also all too typical of a wartime mindset in which opponents are seen, not merely as people who hold a different point of view, but as traitors to a noble cause.
Regardless of one’s position on drug legalization, Americans who believe in freedom of expression and in the importance of political debate ought to condemn Istook’s measure and all other attempts to stifle the pro-legalization case. Otherwise, the First Amendment might become the most prominent example of “collateral damage” in the war on drugs.

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