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A rumbling in the United Nations – could a fundamental shift be forthcoming?

The U.N. has mostly stood by silently while its drug control agencies (United Nations Office of Drug Control (UNODC), International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)) set and ran international drug control policy, and those agencies have been mostly influenced by their biggest contributors (United States and Sweden).

Theoretically, all United Nations efforts are subordinate to the Human Rights Treaties, although the UNODC has rarely done anything but pay lip service to them, and no one else in the U.N. has called them on it.

That could change.

Transform Drug Policy Foundation reports on a very interesting development that will culminate in a press conference in New York this coming Tuesday.

Anand Grover, from India, is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, whose mandate is derived from the UN Human Rights Council. Mr Grover’s annual thematic report, to be presented on October 25/26, sets out the range of human rights abuses that have resulted from international drug control efforts, and calls on Governments to:

  • Ensure that all harm-reduction measures (as itemized by UNAIDS) and drug-dependence treatment services, particularly opioid substitution therapy, are available to people who use drugs, in particular those among incarcerated populations.
  • Decriminalize or de-penalize possession and use of drugs.
  • Repeal or substantially reform laws and policies inhibiting the delivery of essential health services to drug users, and review law enforcement initiatives around drug control to ensure compliance with human rights obligations.
  • Amend laws, regulations and policies to increase access to controlled essential medicines
  • To the UN drug control agencies, Mr Grover recommends the creation of an alternative drug regulatory framework based on a model such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The report is the clearest statement to date from within the UN system about the harms that drug policies have caused and the need for a fundamental shift in drug policy.

The report has been welcomed by the European Union in the EU statement on crime and drugs to the UN General Assembly.

The U.N. drug control regime is not going to change overnight, yet this is a powerful development that signals the potential for major shifts. It states that the status quo in drug control systems is no longer a certainty, and, in fact, is in conflict with higher goals of the U.N. This could open the door to change. Additionally, this may weaken attempts by the United States to claim that significant drug policy change here in the States is impossible due to international treaty obligations.

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34 comments to A rumbling in the United Nations – could a fundamental shift be forthcoming?

  • Ben Mann

    The argument that the US can’t legalize due to international treaties is laughable. The US punishes other countries for not toeing the line on drug prohibition, not vice-versa.

  • darkcycle

    Well, with Spain and Portugal leading the way, and Mexico decriminalizing personal ammounts, this couldn’t be far behind. I’ll be happy when Maria-Costa’s out of a job.

  • darkcycle

    Ben, It was Harry Anslinger who bullied the UN into the treaty on drugs in the first place, by threatening…to with hold US humaitarian and agricultural aid from countries that refused to sign.

  • Ben Mann

    My point exactly. What will other countries do if we withdraw from such treaties? Stop taking our financial aid?

  • darkcycle

    Well, since the tables are somewhat turned, and it’s the U.S. who depends on the largesse of lender nations now….as unlikely as it is , it would serve great poetic justice were those nations to offer to ‘withdraw’ from funding the U.S. government if we continue to push the treaty. Never happen, but it’s a great fantasy, right?

  • wow, you mean it really is a fundamental human rights issue — who’da thunk it?

  • Common Science

    You’re absolutely right, darkcycle. In the 1930’s, the industrialists that saw hemp as a direct threat to their economic ambitions knew they would not get public sympathy for their cause if their lurid tales of murder and mayhem were from the same cannabis that Americans procured from Ely Lilly and Parke-Davis. So the unspeakable crimes were about the ‘new mexican menace, marihuana.’

    By the 1960’s relatively no one heard of the word cannabis anymore. All the media had used the word ‘marihuana’ for a couple of decades. I wish I could find the yellowed article that was published in the mid 1970’s where Anslinger was so tickled to reveal that for the 1961 Single Narcotics Treaty, Anslinger sneaked in the word ‘cannabis’ to be included with the other restricted narcotics.

  • Common Science

    Anslinger factoid:
    Harry Jacob Anslinger’s wife had a son from a previous marriage, named Joseph Leet.

    Joseph’s career?…travelling drug salesman.

  • Jake

    @darkcycle, you will be pleased to know that Costa is out of a job… but unfortunately he was replaced by a Russian (as they have the “best” track record regarding human rights and drug use) http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2010/sga1251.doc.htm . Given Russia’s stance on drugs there have been ‘some’ positive mumblings from him… but his job still depends on (some) drugs being illegal…

    Reform will have to come from those in power who have already realised the human rights atrocities committed in the name of prohibition, and can then convince the majority in power to change things and not to be scared of the ‘public’ and tabloids… and of course not be scared themselves… it’s our job to start that, and it seems we are doing a good job!

  • chris

    I don’t understand how we don’t have anyone insterested in drawing up regulations for recreational drug sales. Its absolutely necessary.

  • darkcycle

    Oh yeah. Forgot about the new guy. Well, same sentiment…

  • Jake

    darkcycle – yeh is the same job, same BS…

    chris – download and have a read of Transform’s Blueprint for regulation http://www.tdpf.org.uk/blueprint%20download.htm it is exactly what you are talking about 🙂

  • claygooding

    While it is true that all this about Anslinger and the industrialists of yesteryear,Anslinger is gone,but the same industries that wanted hemp prohibited want it to remain that way.

    I doubt that they go to legislators and give them hundreds of thousands of dollars with anything about specifically continuing the prohibition of marijuana but instead make a note in their lobbying conversations that recipient legislators must agree to drug free America platform. An easy call for any politician.

    That is why all the bills to legalize medical marijuana,
    legalize or decriminalize marijuana or legalize low thc hemp production are never debated on the floor of the house or senate,they die in committee because lobby bought legislators let them lay there.

    But now,those same industries will have to come out in the open and specify their opposition against marijuana if they want to protect their interests.

    And the cost of getting legislators to vote against what their constituents want will drive the price of bought politicians up.

    Don’t you just love how marijuana makes everyone more money? Except most of us.

  • Just me.

    Humm… looks like the drug worriers here are loosing thier ‘support’ around the world . Maybe the rest of the world is tired of our people here using drug policies as a way to push other countries around….Oh I shed a tear..boo hoo.

  • chris

    Jake, I already read the whole thing back when it was released. But its just amazing that transform’s whitepaper is breaking new ground on the issue. It needs to be the topic of a congressional meeting, and the prohibitionists need to be laughed out of the room at the start of it.

  • re the US and respecting treaties… hah! Ask any tribal folk here in the US if they know what the word “abrogate” means… a great tool for saying “well, we didn’t mean that, so… we’re changing the rules.”

    And yes absolutely it’s about human rights. Not having to live under government policies built from lies and racism is a pretty fundamental one. And as for us cannabists, we’re grandfathered in. We could I suppose actually claim to be one of the world’s older religions. Esoteric practices may have changed but the root – consumption of cannabis – is what we do and have done since before we started recording our histories.

  • kaptinemo

    I think we may be seeing the stirrings of a possible revolt within the UN. I am quite sure that a great many of the staff of various Developed and Developing delegations are watching the progress of 19 in California to see what if anything the Feds can do – besides impotent and empty threats to sue States.

    If the huge cornerstone of US domestic cannabis prohibition that shores up the entire prohibition edifice is knocked out, the rest of the structure will tumble, and the international effects of that are breathtaking in their import.

    But other nations don’t have to wait as long: all they have to do is denounce the treaty. 6 months later, they no longer have to abide by its’ strictures, and they can go their own way. And you may also lay good odds that some countries are considering exactly that. Prop 19 will be a catalyst that sets more than one reaction into play; ‘butterfly effect’ and all that.

  • do read the actual report – its very clearly talking about dealing with drug issues within a human rights legal framework (as the rest of the UN operates), and adapting the outdated conventions accordingly. Its an important and authoritative piece of work – READ!.

  • darkcycle

    Yes Allan. Shamanism IS the oldest….religion isn’t the right term…uh…spiritual practise on earth.

  • the roar of the masses could be farts

    The U.N. is rumbling? Somewhere the world’s tiniest violin plays Misty.

  • undrgrndgirl

    when i was doing research for a college paper on the history of medical cannabis in the u.s. (i hadn’t actually hammered out a coherent topic, yet) i looked at some trade agreements and u.n. treaties which all contained provisions for illegal drug control that (seemed to me) to have anything to do with the agreements or treaties…i didn’t follow that thread for my paper, but have wanted to go back to do more digging…if i remember correctly i looked down that avenue after reading something someone (barry mccaffrey?) said about not being able to legalize drugs (cannabis) because of international trade agreements…maybe i’ll get back on that one of these days…

  • undrgrndgirl

    @bruce…consider the source…that’s a christian right wing publication…

  • Servetus

    So with the Prop 19 election just days away, someone at the UN has finally decided to confront “…this excessively punitive regime [that] has not achieved its stated public health goals, and has resulted in countless human rights violations.”?

    No doubt the UN would look pretty silly if the world’s citizenry were the exclusive agents in overthrowing a corrupt and tyrannical international drug policy that the UN has nursed through monsterhood until its monstrous prohibition practices appeared ready to blow up in their faces.

    The UN statement may be a face-saving preemptory strike instigated prior to a November 2 election that promises to dump U.S. and UN drug policy into a well deserved cesspool of oblivion. In that sense, the UN statement resembles the California legislature’s reduction of cannabis penalties from a misdemeanor to an infraction as a means of countering the anti-drug war sentiment currently pushing Prop 19. In both cases, it may be too little too late.

  • strayan

    Servetus hits the nail on the head.

    I’ll be hanging around here until I see the UN finally brought to account (preferably before some kind of international court), for exactly as stated: nursing and defending a corrupt and tyrannical international drug policy over several decades.

    Nothing would give me more pleasure than seeing Costa & Co dragged out of retirement and desperately trying to formulate a coherent defence to a panel of the worlds most astute legal minds.

  • If I had a rocket launcher

    I think Judith has forgotten to take her medication.

  • ezrydn

    The UN suggests undoing the world’s largest and most pulled on knot. Pipedream comes to mind on this one.

  • Just me.

    Always notice there are no comments page on stories like Judiths .These people know that there would be an ass ripping seccion if they allowed debate.

  • claygooding

    None of the prohibitionists web sites have blogs where you can leave comments or links to educate them that their lies and myths are just that.

  • biscuit

    An ass ripping section! Muahahah stomp a mudhole in their ass and walk it dry.

  • darkcycle

    Judith Reisner. A mind is a terrible thing to lose.

  • Polity

    Judith forgot to mention George Soros and the liberals. Cliff Kincaid is way better than her.

  • vicky vampire

    Bruce on commented on oct. 22 (now hugh heffner is the villian)
    oH God now everyone is coming out of woodwork getting there two cents in about prop 19, OK Maybe Kinsey was a little sick and yes Judith this is still a free country you may not like Hefner Porn Publishning empire but its still legal for adults hello we are not yet in commie land Judith.and I remember about two or three years ago Judith was try to hawk a scathing video about how the symbols in catholic church were erotic and art hidden sex message I think it was even to much for WND.com did not see it listed on there site after a while this woman demonizes sex at every turn and sees some dangerous conspirering to makes us sex fiends.I not saying some of her research is not ligite but I think it borders on osbcession I know she probably thinks we are obsessed with pot hell I would not even hardly talk about it if it were legal in first place. The UN promising maybe like everything this year.

  • claygooding

    Judith only gets antsy when the Duracell truck is late making deliveries.