The UN held its first major drug policy conference in 18 years this week. Though many countries pled for the international community to prioritize legalization and increased addiction treatment, little progress was made in the UN’s prohibition-leaning policies.
UNgass, as the conference was called, was organized largely in response to the lobbying of Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia, all countries which are being tormented by rampant narco gang violence.
“So far, the solutions [to control drugs and crime] implemented by the international community have been frankly insufficient,” said Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto at the conference, according to the Guardian. “We must move beyond prohibition to effective prevention.”
Many other countries also advocated humane and realistic programs over strict anti-drug laws. White House representative Michael Botticelli said that “law enforcement efforts should focus on criminal organizations — not on people with substance use disorders who need treatment and recovery support services,” according to the Associated Press.
Not every country took such a liberal stance on drug laws at the assembly. Indonesia, China, and Iran all impose a death penalty for trafficking drugs. Indonesia’s Ambassador Rachmat Budiman calls this “a zero-tolerance approach.”
Countries such as Norway argued that death penalties for non-violent drug offenders should have been banned during UNgass, but the newly adopted output document leaves countries free to treat drug offenders more or less as they wish.
Meanwhile Cuba’s Reus Gonzalez that her country vehemently defends prohibitionism and is “absolutely [committed} to achieving societies free of illicit drugs,” in other words absolutely committed to achieving something impossible.
Though the UN itself is way behind the times, it’s comforting that many countries are catching up on their own. Jamaica, Uruguay, and Canada all defended both current and upcoming laws which allow the legal sale of marijuana, while the US is slowly going the way of cannabis decriminalization and legalization.
Hopefully that means that in another 18 years the countries’ representatives will all show up to the next UNgass baked and decide to chill out on the executions for awhile.