Antonio Maria Costa

I’ve been doing a little more thinking about one of the Thursday keynote speakers at the Drug Policy Alliance’s 2007 International Drug Policy Reform Conference — UNODC’s Antonio Maria Costa.
I find myself wondering what I would say if I had a chance to talk to him. What question would I ask?
I admire prohibitionists who are willing to talk to their opposition. So few of them are. So it’s important to me that we treat him with respect. It’s also important that we try to understand them.
Certainly, over time, Costa has made some scattered overtures toward… sanity? He has said that treatment is more effective than incarceration. He appeared that he might even be personally interested in harm reduction (needle provision in 3rd world countries, for example) before political necessity made him change to zero tolerance for harm reduction.
But ultimately, his legacy is full-blown prohibitionist propaganda meant to feed authoritarian government approaches regardless of the facts.

“Today the harmful characteristics of cannabis are no longer that different from those of other plant-based drugs such as cocaine and heroin,”

“Amid all the libertarian talk about the right of individuals to engage in dangerous practices provided no one else gets hurt, certain key facts are easily forgotten. First, cannabis is a dangerous drug – not just to the individuals who use it. People who drive under the influence of cannabis put others at risk. Would even the most ardent supporter of legalisation want to fly in an aircraft whose pilot used cannabis?

Governments and societies must keep their nerve and avoid being swayed by misguided notions of tolerance. They must not lose sight of the fact that illicit drugs are dangerous – that is why the world agreed to restrict them.”

He has set himself up as judge over whether countries were sufficiently pure in their prohibition.

“The law conforms with three main United Nations agreements on drugs,” he said.æ Under the proposed law, possession of marijuana would remain illegal.æ However someone caught with less than 15 grams would face only a fine.æ Mr.æ Costa said 15 grams is too high a threshold.

And he has pushed for eradication in Afghanistan despite the danger to the country and to our soldiers…

“History teaches us that it will take a generation to render Afghanistan opium-free,” UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa said in a statement.

“It is possible to claw Afghanistan back into legality province by province, as was done in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, all of which were once characterized by large scale opium cultivation.”

What else do you know about Costa?
What question would you ask him in a Q and A session?
Oh, and yes, I will be blogging the Conference. Won’t be quite live-blogging — they don’t have wireless in the conference rooms — I’ll have to wait until I get to the lobby or my room to actually post, but I’m going to try to share a lot of the conference and New Orleans with you — including photos, so be sure to tune in Thursday through Saturday.

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