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

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