Friday, March 15, 2013

2nd Report from UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

This is the second report from LEAP board members present at the 56th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs this week. 

March 15, 2013

According to reports issued by the Secretariat for the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, methamphetamines represented the largest increase in illicit drug use worldwide in 2012 as reflected in part by the seizure of 60 tons of meth that year. Those same reports reflected that forty nine new psychoactive substances were identified and in use among European Union member states in 2011, compared with forty one new substances in 2010 and twenty four in 2009.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is charged with responsibility for establishing drug policy for the United Nations, consistent with three UN prohibitionist treaties adopted in 1961, 1971 and 1988. In March of each year, the Commission has the opportunity to study the Secretariat's reports and other evidence of drug use and trafficking, examine the effectiveness of its policies, and recommend revisions and changes to world drug policy. Given that responsibility and authority -- and given the Secretariat's facts regarding the explosion of meth use, meth seizures and new synthetic-drug proliferation -- a serious reexamination of the UN drug prohibition policy was warranted.

But it didn't happen. Concluding a week of meetings of the 56th session of the CND on Friday, the three UN drug prohibition treaties escaped alive and well without any significant policy change recommendations.

One reform group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a non-profit organization composed of drug cops, prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement personnel, who for years led the fight against drugs but who now oppose the failed drug war, expressed disappointment that the CND never engaged in a discussion of fundamental questions concerning world drug policy.

The CND failed to take up the question of whether drug prohibition does more harm than good. Despite the huge meth seizures and proliferation of new drugs in the market, the CND failed to take up the question of whether drug prohibition policy itself causes increased drug availability, potency, use, abuse, addiction, disease and death.

Ignoring other fundamental questions, the CND failed to consider whether drug prohibition policy itself causes addict crime and turf-war crime, violence, corruption and injustice; and whether it erodes freedom, liberty and human rights.

The CND failed to consider the fundamental question of whether the United Nations should repudiate the UN/Al Capone style drug-prohibition paradigm, instead adhering to the failed and harmful drug-war policy.

Triggered by unrelenting violence and other threats to the public health and safety of their people, some Latin American countries, such as Guatemala and Uruguay, are increasingly unwilling to accept the drug-prohibition status quo. Signs of change are also evident in the United States, where the people of Colorado and Washington have expressed unwillingness to live with nonsensical cannabis laws that feed Mexican drug cartels and deprive citizens of freedom.

In some European countries sentiment is also being expressed for a rejection of the top-down UN-mandated prohibition of drugs and for the restoration of national sovereignity that would enable each country to establish drug laws that best fit their people's problems and needs through a system of legalization, regulation and control.

Courageously, Bolivia, by insisting on the constitutional right of its people to preserve the traditional use of the coca leaf, has shown the nations of the world a way to throw off the straight-jacket, zero-tolerance UN prohibitionist conventions.

Following Bolivia's procedural success, other nations of the world could also reject the current prohibition policy and replace it with drug policies that are conducive to the public health, safety and welfare, through a system of legalization, regulation and control.

- Jim Gierach, Annie Machon, Terry Nelson, Maria Lucia Karam

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Notes from the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Note: Four of LEAP's board members are in Vienna attending the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs this week, from which they sent us this special report.   


VIENNA - Bolivian president Evo Morales again stole the show at the 56th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), proclaiming that the UN drug rules and conventions had failed to control drugs and had led to "more and more drugs on the market," "more violence," and "more hidden money in the banking sector."

More than one year ago, Pres. Morales created a CND stir and committed drug policy heresy by leading Bolivia to repudiate and withdraw from the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. After initially requesting an exemption from the international convention in order to permit the chewing of the coca leaf for cultural, traditional and medical reasons, and being denied such relief, Bolivia unilaterally withdrew from the treaty, a first by any nation of the world.

Last year, at the same CND annual meeting, Pres. Morales asked that Bolivia be readmitted as a signatory to the Single Convention with the exception that the coca leaf be removed from the long list of UN prohibited drugs. Although the coca leaf has many constructive uses in food, beverage, and medicinal products, it is also the foundational ingredient for cocaine. Morales, however, made clear that he and Bolivian were opposed to legalizing cocaine.

In response to Morales 2012 speech, rather than being condemned by other Member States to the Single Convention, many delegates to the 55th Session applauded him. And during the past year, all Member States to the Convention, with the exception of 15 countries, approved the re-admittance of Bolivia to the drug prohibitionist UN family.

President Morales had more news for the 2013 Session.

Bravely, he declared that the international drug rules and conventions had failed. He proclaimed that despite UN anti-drug treaties, today "we have more and more drugs on the market," "more and more violence," and "more and more forbidden money in the banking sector."

He also pointed out that despite the UN war on drugs Afghanistan had an 18% increase in the production of poppies this year over last. The poppy is the plant from which opium, morphine and heroin are made. Morales pointed out that the mushrooming poppy crop occurred despite the U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan, and that one-half of Afghan provinces and one-third more families were cultivating opium.

Morales contended that drug war has become an instrument of political domination. He also pointed out that without U.S. "occupation," Bolivia is doing much better in drug control than it did historically.

Contravening another UN mantra, Morales stated that drug control is not a "shared responsibility," explaining that Bolivia no longer receives any anti-drug money from the U.S. He further touted the fact that Bolivia does not use chemicals to eradicate the coca plants, and contented that thereby it was protecting "Mother Earth."
Challenging other UN conventional protocol, Morales claimed that alternative development in substitution for coca plant cultivation was a waste of time. He explained that the illegal market dictates the price of coca, and no legal crop is comparable in price. The only competitive product for the coca plant would be opium or marijuana. 

- Maria Lucia Karam, Jim Gierach, Annie Machon, Terry Nelson

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Nullify State Laws" - Ex-DEA heads

8 former heads of the DEA want the Obama adminstration to "nullify" the laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington, according to published reports.

This is the opposite of how nullification has traditionally been used.
For example, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, proposed state nullification of the federal Alien and Sedition Acts on the grounds that the laws violated the Constitution. Nullification was also later attempted against the Fugative Slave Act of 1850.

I realize that not all members of LEAP will be comfortable with jumping on the State's rights bandwagon and also that some of our international members might not appreciate just how strongly some of us feel about the importance of having a limited Federal government. But, for the purposes of fighting the war on drugs, would it not make sense to make alliances with groups such as the Tenth Amendment Center?

Although, if at some future point the Federal government adopted a policy of regulation and legalization, would we be satisfied to allow some states to still enforce prohibition? Do we need one national (or international) drug policy or should States be free to experiment?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How I learned to stop worrying and love the sequester

Many people are upset about the slight decrease in the increase of money that the US government will spend over the next several years. I live in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, which is home to, among other things: the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, the Naval Academy, various defense contractors, and a ton of Federal workers. We are artificially wealthy as a result of the disproportionate amount of taxpayer money spent here. Because of this, our state and federal elected officials are concerned over the impact of the "budget cuts".  I can't blame them. They are looking out for their constituents.

With concern over unsustainable spending, cuts to defense spending and entitlements, and the prospect of increased taxes, it may be helpful to remind our friends on the left and right about one area of spending we can do without - the drug war. Critics will point out that ending the drug war will hardly solve our budget problems. But they should remember Benjamin Franklin's advice that a small leak will sink a great ship. And the drug war is a bigger leak than many people realize.

The proposed 2013 Federal budget for drug control is well over $25 billion dollars. Well over half of this is for law enforcement. The rest is for treatment related programs. Conservatives, who claim to believe that the Federal government is one of enumerated and limited powers, should be reminded that nothing in the Constitution authorizes this spending. Those who claim to believe in personal responsibility should also be opposed to the government "helping" people with drug treatment. Liberals, who claim to believe in personal freedom, should question the benefit of funding enforcement, but also treatment, which is usually done under coercion, either directly or indirectly.

Ending the Federal drug war would not only save $25 billion a year, but would also increase revenue if drugs such as marijuana were taxed on the Federal level, much like cigarettes are now. Prohibition is also a drain on the economy, in more ways than most people realize. Ending the drug war would spark economic growth which would also help with the budget.

We should welcome the current focus on the budget and the across the board cuts as an opportunity to inform others about the costs of the failed war on drugs. We should argue that the drug war should be cut first, before anything else is touched.

But the benefits of the sequester may be more immediate as well. Mike Riggs at Reason suggests that it could be beneficial to the medical marijuana industry. It will be interesting to see if the DEA uses its decreased resources more wisely or still continues with its destructive war against cancer patients and State's rights. I am not as optimistic. It is not hard to imagine them putting their fight against the cartels on the back burner so they will continue to have resources to raid dispensaries. 
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