Latin American Presidents’ Calls for Legalization Debate Go Unheeded at UN Drug Policy Meeting in Vienna
VIENNA, AUSTRIA – Even while several Latin American presidents are calling for an outright debate on drug legalization, delegates at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting this week failed to even discuss a change in the global prohibitionist drug treaties, reports a group of judges, prosecutors and jailers who were at the meeting in Vienna to promote reform.
During consideration of a U.S.-sponsored resolution to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first laws banning opium, Norway’s delegation attempted to insert the phrase “while observing human rights,” but even this move encountered resistance from the US delegation, which preferred not to mention human rights.
“Fundamentally, the three UN prohibitionist treaties are incompatible to human rights. We can have human rights or drug war, but not both,” said Maria Lucia Karam, a retired judge from Brazil and a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
Richard Van Wickler, currently a jail superintendent in New Hampshire, adds, “I suppose it’s not shocking that within the context of a century-long bloody ‘war on drugs’ the idea of human rights is a foreign concept. Our global drug prohibition regime puts handcuffs on millions of people every year while even the harshest of prohibitionist countries say that drug abuse is a health issue. What other medical problems do we try to solve with imprisonment and an abandonment of human rights?”
The UN meeting, the 55th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, comes amidst a rapidly emerging global debate on the appropriateness of continuing drug prohibition and whether legalization and regulation would be a better way to control drugs. In recent weeks, Presidents Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica and Felipe Calderon of Mexico have added their voices to the call for a serious conversation on alternatives to drug prohibition.
“Unfortunately, none of these powerful Latin American voices were heard during the official sessions of the UN meeting,” says Judge Karam. “In the halls of the UN building in Vienna we did speak to delegates who agree that the drug war isn’t working and that change is needed, but these opinions were not voiced when they counted the most. During the meetings, all the Member States remained voluntarily submissive to the U.N. dictates that required that all speak with a ‘single voice’ that mandated support for prohibition.”
Jim Gierach, a retired Chicago prosecutor, added, “Voters in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington will be deciding this November on measures to legalize marijuana. Already, 16 states and the District of Columbia allow legal access to medical marijuana. It is pure hypocrisy for the American federal government to hold the rest of the world hostage to its futile desire to continue drug prohibition unquestioned when its own citizens don’t even want to go along for the ride.”
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who support legalization after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 16, 2012
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