Time to change.
The war against drugs has become a war against citizens
Press Release of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies
June 27th 2007
On the occasion of the International Day against Drugs (June 26th), Antonio María Costa, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, declared that “for almost all drugs – cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamines – there are signs of overall stability, whether we speak of production, trafficking or consumption”. Yet repression is rising.
Stability in this case means that current drug policies place the heaviest burden among those who are already among the most marginalised in the first place: drug consumers and producers of drug-related plants, both in the North and in the South. They experience far more damage from drug policies than from the drugs themselves.
Stability means an escalation of law enforcement and repression. Millions of people are in jail or on trial because they have grown, used or possessed drugs or drugs-related plants. Aggressive eradication campaigns of opium and coca have created a humanitarian crisis in resp. Afghanistan and Colombia. Meanwhile, there is no sign that the war on drugs is having any effect on the strength and effectiveness of criminal organisations dealing with drugs.
Stability means a war against minorities. In Laos, the internal resettlement of indigenous ethnic communities promoted by international aid agencies, is increasing the mortality rates up to 30% more than the national average. In US, a black person has 5.5 bigger chance of incarceration than a white person, while a Hispanic has 2 times more. In the fiscal year 2005, 53% of all federal powder cocaine defendants were low-level offenders such as mules or street-dealers. Only 12.8% were high-level dealers, as stated by the US Sentencing Commission.
Stability means also that opium poppy crops in Afghanistan have boomed; new trafficking routes for heroin and cocaine smuggling have been opened, among others through Africa; the use of opiates is rising in East Europe and Africa, and the use of cocaine is increasing in South America, Africa and Europe; the total potential amount of cocaine has increased from 980 metric tons in 2005 to 984 mt in 2006. UN coca crops estimations seem to be extremely low, while the US Office of National Drug Control Policy states 157,200 hectares of coca crops in Colombia for 2006, the UN presents the figure of 78,000 h.
In many countries the use of one drug increases, and of another one decreases. This has been the case for many years. It is probable that levels of use, abuse and dependence have been reached that will stay fairly constant for a long time, with or without repression. The term “stabilization” could have been used many years ago, but it wasn’t convenient at that time for UNODC and other authorities to do so. Now, because it is impossible for UNODC to pretend any progress in the war on drugs, the term stabilization is used to hide this failure.
Drug users can not be considered just sick or criminal people: we are also citizens. Drug policies cannot be effective without the voice of those affected by them. For more than 20 years, the European Union has committed itself to start a process of dialogue with civil society on future drug policies in Europe, but as yet, it has not been able to establish an effective and professional way to construct a transparent and inclusive structure to achieve this. ENCOD has commented the history of dialogue with citizens in EU drugs policy in a document called the Green Pepper.
On the other hand, the year 2008 will be the deadline to “eliminate or significantly reduce” the drug related crops all over the world. This goal was declared by the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) held in 1998. It is time to accept that the current regimen is a failure. It is time to stop the war on citizens which the drugs war has become. It is time to open the door to alternative and pragmatic drugs policies.
A world without repression: we can do it.