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Costa attempts to re-define ‘control’

It’s one of the more pathetic efforts I’ve seen by UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa. In today’s Guardian (The Observer), check out this headline and opening paragraph:

How many lives would have been lost if we didn’t have controls on drugs?

There is a growing chorus, not least in the pages of the Observer, calling for an end to drug control. The arguments are by now well known: too many people are going to jail and not to treatment. Eradicating the supply of illicit drugs is meaningless without reducing demand. Drug control has spawned a massive criminal black market. Some even say that the costs of prohibition far outweigh the benefits (although there is no body count of people who haven’t died thanks to drug control versus those who have been killed in the crossfire).

He knows our extremely legitimate and powerful argument (that prohibition is actually an absence of control) and is trying to turn it on its head by claiming that we’ve been controlling drugs all along, and that legalization is calling for “an end to drug control.” He also claims that whatever we’ve been doing all along has been saving lives (lots of them), but offers no evidence at all to support that.

His attempts to own the word “control” go to ridiculous lengths.

Drugs are controlled (not prohibited) because they are dangerous.

I beg your pardon? Drugs aren’t prohibited? Since when? Where? You can’t just waive a magic wand and say that since you don’t like the word “prohibited” you declare it to mean something else.

“Drugs… are dangerous.” Which ones? Compared to what?

“…because they are dangerous.” Right. That’s fine if you want to ignore, like, history and stuff.

Here was another good one in his attempt to counter legalizers:

First, drugs should be regarded as a health issue.

Addiction is an illness, not a lifestyle, and should be treated as such.

Um, no. Drug abuse should be regarded as a health issue, not “drugs.” Calling “drugs” a health issue is like calling “shoes” a health issue.

All in all, a particularly ridiculous OpEd.

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29 comments to Costa attempts to re-define ‘control’

  • kant

    weeeellll, technically costa is right about it being controlled and not prohibited, in regards to the US. prohibited suggests that no one is allowed to have it under any circumstance. controlled means under some circumstances it’s allowed. Technically, 5 or so people still are in the IND program.

    technically yes. practically no.

  • R.O.E.

    They know this is a lost cause,hence the twist in words and meaning to get people to see things their way. Its funny, their way has corruption written all over it as does much of government. So what will they call corruption? A debt releif program?

    Dont give me your retoric.
    Dont tread on me.

  • Mike R

    Anyone who thinks that our government doesn’t have control over drug trade is deluded. They have absolute control over it. They decide which cartels can do business. They decide which trafficking lanes will be monitored and which will not. They decide when and where to make examples of drug dealers and drug users.

    Finally, the have built an entire corporate industry around policing, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating drug users. They don’t ever want the war on drugs to end – it’s provides them with the leverage they need to violate our civil liberties whenever they please and spend tax dollars to finance their army of domestic drug warriors.

  • ezrydn

    My Dear Mr. Costa,

    Rather than tell us how many people are alive due to your actions, wouldn’t it be easier to tell how many dead people ad dogs there are due to your stupidity? Or, are you afraid of the “mortality rate” of your lovely war?

  • Duncan

    He’s just another graduate of the Humpty Dumpty School of Semantics, neither more nor less.

  • Price

    Just another clear indication that they are beginning to wave the white flag….All we need to do now is to give them a dignified way to surrender.

  • Chris

    Ah, the either-or fallacy. Either we have drugs “controlled” or we have a free for all. Obviously there is no way to have drugs both controlled AND available for people of age. I can’t think of one situation where that has worked *cough* alcohol, tobacco *cough*

  • Carol

    Talk about Alice in Wonderland, where “up” is “down” and vice versa. How can anyone see a success with the bodies piling up in Tijuana, Colombia, and anywhere else?

    If trying to label the status quo as a success because it supposedly keeps other people from trying certain substances (due to fear of being arrested) doesn’t work, then I suppose the next card is the fear card-perhaps that legalization will lead to the cartels running the country and people being forced to indulge. (Not logical at all, but conspiracy theories have been based on far less realism).

  • paul

    The talk about treatment instead of jail is the beginning of a negotiation from a position of weakness. They are thinking that maybe the legalization movement can be appeased if drug prohibition can be converted from a primarily criminal matter into a (forced) medical matter. Treatment instead of prison. After all, a major argument of the legalization side is the huge prison population.

    While treatment IS better than prison, it represents a sort of regulatory purgatory we are likely to slump into if we don’t watch out. We don’t want to see the medical industry get heavily involved the drug war. They will become twisted and corrupted in the same way the criminal justice system has been corrupted, and nobody will like the results.

    Medicalizing the drug war would improve the criminal justice system a bit, but most of the old, bad incentives would remain in place. Smuggling, the cartel wars, intrusive law enforcement…you know the litany. And drug users who fail treatment would have to be sent to prison anyway, so the overall number of people the system chews up would not change.

    We don’t want the perfect to become the enemy of the good, but massive, forced treatment would not be good and should not be considered a positive outcome. We don’t want this to become the center point of the discussion.

    Ideally, the whole crumbling edifice will fall like the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Empire–suddenly and completely. Once it has been smashed we can pick up the pieces and discuss a rational policy.

  • Chris

    I just re-read my last comment and forgot to mention something (which should be obvious but I feel like explaining it). The comment was: “Ah, the either-or fallacy. Either we have drugs ‘controlled’ or we have a free for all.”

    What we have now is a free-for-all, what we will have under legalization is regulation and control. Their thinking.. it’s just backwards.

  • claygooding

    With forced treatment,they get the best of both worlds,they have you in control for the most of your day,working and going too treatment,which you will have too pay for,while continuing to support yourself and family,paying taxes and court costs,and if you can’t afford treatment,they still have the prison option for back-up.

  • R.O.E.

    All I see as far as the eye can see is corruption and control. At what point of the coruption of the world will people or God do something about it?

    Corruption:A disease that spares no one.

  • Duncan

    “While treatment IS better than prison…”

    I’ve been both places and disagree. If the choice ever presents itself again I will assuredly choose prison over treatment unless the costs are significantly divergent in favor of tolerating the insanity that masquerades as ‘treatment’. ‘Treatment’ in this country is nonsense, they have no clue what they’re doing. For the most part, it’s religionist dogma disguised as medical treatment. I’m not sure how being forced to go to church services twice a week and sit in a circle of people and acknowledge lies as truth is ‘treatment’ in anything except name. Make no mistake, 12 step programs are church services. They have their own bible, take up the collection plate, have group codified dogma, and will promptly ostracize anyone who questions their product. Perhaps in a few years they’ll make some progress, and we’ll see them bleeding druggies with leeches and revisiting ECT as a viable ‘treatment’.

  • Drug abuse shouldn’t be considered a health issue either, at least insofar as it doesn’t negatively effect one’s health. Unlike “cigarette abuse” or “alcohol abuse” many drugs can be abused (whatever that means, I assume it means used for recreational purposes the way alcohol is used) without any negative health consequences. Although the word “abuse” necessarily implies harm… that’s why they use the word. You can’t abuse a puppy without hurting it. Of course you can’t really hurt a drug either, but that’s just why the phrase is so stupid… it’s the only that supposedly hurts YOU the more YOU hurt IT.

    I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is sent to mandatory “treatment” instead of prison – that’s no better. People don’t need treatment, they need a cheap, pure, readily available supply of their drug(s) of choice and education about how to use such substance(s) safely. Start teaching children how to use drugs in first grade… by the time they are teenagers they’ll be pros, know all about proper injection techniques, titration, safe and unsafe drug combinations, etc. And when they can buy a pound of pure 100% unadulterated heroin or cocaine or methamphetamine or THC – whatever – at Walmart for ten bucks a pound, there won’t be ANY overdoses, no drug crime, no problems.

    Well, lots of cops will be out of jobs, and all religions will lose half their followers within a week – religion and drugs have been competing for centuries. As powerful as religion is, it can’t compete with heroin, and it never will be able to. But those are good things (I don’t want people to be out of jobs, but insofar as their job is to attack people and try to destroy their lives and steal their property and deprive them of their freedom merely for touching the wrong leaves or powders, I don’t want any of them to be working).

  • Bruce. There is drug use and there is drug abuse. Drug abuse should be a health issue. Drugs shouldn’t. Drug use shouldn’t. Alcohol abuse is a health issue. Alcohol use is not.

  • Cliff

    “Medicalizing the drug war would improve the criminal justice system a bit, but most of the old, bad incentives would remain in place.”

    IMHO, I don’t think there would be any improvement at all. I see this as the way psychiatric hospitals were used in the Soviet Union, to punish dissidents, and to control people.

    Presently, most people referred to treatment are cannabis users who do not have a drug problem. If a more treatment based regime is introduced, the only change I see would be the guards wear white and they can’t taze you as much, you would not be any freer. You would still be a prisoner.

  • DdC

    The wheels of the WoD go round and round…
    Watch the shell, don’t take your eyes off the shell.
    See the pea? Now I place it under the middle shell.
    Or did I? Back to the future, same old “treatment”
    Raze the prisons and build more Asylums.

  • paul

    Duncan and Cliff,

    That’s food for thought. You hear people yammering about treatment programs all the time and never stop to think about what that’s all about. I know I would detest being sent to something like that against my will.

  • ezrydn

    Pete it right!

    In fact, the new Mexican Decrim Law mades a distinction between “addict” where one’s social skills are in jepordy and “Consumer” where there is no drug interference in their daily lives. At least, Mexico got that one right.

  • kaptinemo

    I just love it when the opposition tries to ‘change its’ spots’. Mr. Costa is attempting the same, lame sleight-of-hand that the prohibs began using when we began calling them ‘prohibitionists’. They tried passing themselves off as ‘preventionists’, but it didn’t take, as just as they could prohibit nothing, they couldn’t prevent anything, either.

    Likewise, they certainly cannot ‘control’ drugs when the trade is in the hands of the lawless. How pathetic…

  • Nick Zentor

    Treatment for drug abuse? I knew a crack-addict who was prostituting herself for crack-money and wasting away at the same time. She became such a public menace that the cops had to tell her to go home or go to jail at all hours of the morning. There is no doubt about it; she was abusing crack and abusing herself as well as others. Ultimately, the cops told her to check into detox or go to jail. I knew she had it bad, so I suggested she go to detox, at least she would get a chance to get off the crack and clean up her act.

    Detox, I was surprised to learn at that time, was being used not just for alcoholics, but for crack and heroin addicts as well. I doubt there were any cannabis-users there. One thing for sure is; most of the people there abused drugs, abused their own bodies, and abused other people also. Most of those people needed some kind of help, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been there.

    Unless someone abuses drugs and becomes a danger to themselves and other people, they should not require treatment for drug use. My experience has taught me that very few people who use cannabis actually abuse it to the point that they become a danger to themselves and/or others. So all I can say about the system that requires cannabis-users (or abusers) to go to treatment (or jail) is that it is just another misguided abuse of power connected to the misguided war on drugs.

  • […] allerdings seit langem, dass gerade die Prohibition eine wirksame Kontrolle verhindert (siehe Drug War Rant zu […]

  • Osborne Perry Anderson

    Whether they call it ‘control’ or ‘prohibition’ is technically irrelevant. The fact is whatever word(s) ‘WE CHOOSE TO USE’ should always be preceded by ‘ILLEGAL’. It’s the ‘ILLEGAL prohibition’ or ‘ILLEGAL control'[of some substances] that leads to the ‘ILLEGAL ARREST & INCARCERATION’ of citizens. They’ll say anything to misdirect or muddy the truth… that the drug war is among the 2 greatest civil rights violations since the religious institution of slavery.

  • Osborne Perry Anderson

    Would NASCAR nation tolerate this shit? The religious rehabbers define alcohol [drug] abuse as either 2 standard drinks per day… or SIX per week? WTF! I better move back to europe before the rehab round-up!

  • […] Guither has a good post looking at the latest nonsense from U.N. Drug Czar Antonio Maria Costa: His attempts to own the […]

  • R.O.E.

    There are days I read and see all the horse shit this world tolerates, we wimper and go to our rooms. It makes me sick. It makes me wanna put a bullet in my brain.

  • kaptinemo

    ROE, I can certainly sympathize, but I live for the day when those who’ve made you feel that way are themselves experiencing such depression, as you light up in front of them without penalty. It has to be no different than what happened to the “Drys” immediately after alcohol Prohibition ended.

    And given what’s been happening in this country (and what will continue to happen, thanks to the expected next wave of mortgage foreclosures), the time is coming when it will be foremost on a pol’s mind to root out Gub’mint waste for real, as said pol’s constituents will demand as things get tighter. and nothings wastes money faster and more noticeably than the DrugWar…

  • BluOx

    Control is to tyranny as regulation is to democracy. Therefore Costas supports tyranny with a game of semantics.

  • Brian Kerr

    The United Nations should be dismantled. It is simply a political device to attempt to control the world by a few powers.

    Use what ever drugs you want and ignore the UN.
    I will.