Home / Be The Change / Fmr UN Secretary General Speaks Out, “The War on Drugs is a War on People” — Legalize It All

Fmr UN Secretary General Speaks Out, “The War on Drugs is a War on People” — Legalize It All

In the age of instant information transfer and social media, something as illogical and ludicrous as the War on Drugs cannot be sustained. Government prohibition of psychoactive substances triggers the unrealistic drive to “eradicate” their presence and just ends up being a war on people.

Some of those in government are realizing this and, under public pressure, are decriminalizing aspects of the drug war, most notably seen in cannabis legalization sweeping across the U.S. More politicians and officials are speaking out to say we must change course.

On Monday, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan penned an essay in Spiegel Online where he called for the legalization of drugs. He reiterated many long-known truisms, describing how prohibition brings a far worse danger to humanity than drugs themselves.

“I believe that drugs have destroyed many lives, but wrong government policies have destroyed many more. We all want to protect our families from the potential harm of drugs. But if our children do develop a drug problem, surely we will want them cared for as patients in need of treatment and not branded as criminals.”

The essay comes two months before the UN General Assembly holds a special session on drugs, where Annan says “the world will have a chance to change course.”

He admits that the UN played a pivotal role in encouraging prohibition 50 years ago. The UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961 had the stated purpose to protect the “health and welfare of mankind,” but instead showed how centralized efforts to control behavior bring destruction and misery.

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Prohibition has created a “vast, international criminal market in drugs that fuels violence, corruption and instability,” as Annan acknowledges, which amounts to a $330 billion per year industry. The drug war has no effect on the availability of drugs or the demand, yet $100 billion a year is spent on this consistent failure.

Annan even says the war on drugs is a “war on people.”

Punishment of drug users and overcrowded prisons are just some of the ways in which this manifests. Wherever the criminal drug trade is concentrated, violence, and corruption ensue. In 2013 Mexico saw 16,000 murders, many directly linked to drug trafficking.

“The tendency in many parts of the world to stigmatize and incarcerate drug users has prevented many from seeking medical treatment. In what other areas of public health do we criminalize patients in need of help? Punitive measures have sent many people to prison, where their drug use has worsened. A criminal record for a young person for a minor drug offence can be a far greater threat to their well-being than occasional drug use.”

Accepting that drugs are a reality and that some, like cannabis and psychedelics, have real and proven medical benefits, is necessary for governments to end their war on people.

First, we must decriminalize personal drug use. The use of drugs is harmful and reducing those harms is a task for the public health system, not the courts. This must be coupled with the strengthening of treatment services, especially in middle and low-income countries.

Second, we need to accept that a drug-free world is an illusion. We must focus instead on ensuring that drugs cause the least possible harm. Harm reduction measures, such as needle exchange programs, can make a real difference. Germany adopted such measures early on and the level of HIV infections among injecting drug users is close to 5 percent, compared to over 40 percent in some countries which resist this pragmatic approach.”

Annan goes on to discuss regulation, public education, and taxation as the next steps, pointing to the decline in cigarette smoking in many countries. He mentions the always-tempting carrot of revenue collection through taxation of drugs, such as the $135 million collected by Colorado last year.

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Ideally, these things should not be necessary, but in one sense it provides a real benefit. Instead of buying from an unknown source through unknown middle-men, consumers can purchase from reputable vendors and know exactly what is in their product, as well as the risks.

The story of cannabis shows that fears of wildly increased use after legalization are unfounded.

“Initial trends show us that where cannabis has been legalized, there has been no explosion in drug use or drug-related crime. The size of the black market has been reduced and thousands of young people have been spared criminal records.”

Instead of exacerbating problems, legalization alleviates them.

“Scientific evidence and our concern for health and human rights must shape drug policy. This means making sure that fewer people die from drug overdoses and that small-time offenders do not end up in jail where their drug problems get worse. It is time for a smarter, health-based approach to drug policy.”

Let’s hope that Kofi Annan’s message resonates with those attending the UN special session on drugs April 19-21. The war on drugs is a failure, an affront to human rights, and a catalyst for violence. The war on people must end.

  • If everyone who sees this clicks (Y) + Comments (even a single word or picture) we can all help this important information reach even more people.

    • I’m not against the legalization of drugs, but I don’t enjoy the feeling of getting drunk or high. Some of us just don’t like it.

    • One of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard

  • Yes

  • Here’s an idea!

  • “And that’s why, I’m heaving it behind me” protest song by BLACK EYE BUTTERFLY https://www.reverbnation.com/blackeyebutterfly/song/25291347-heaving-it-behind-me

  • Damn….he finally said it like it really is. Why the hell didn’t he say that shit when he was in office? Smh

  • Yes! It’s far cheaper to treat an addict than to put them in jail in the long run. It’s a tragedy that we’ve gotten to this point, ruined far too many lives for what is likely just a chapter in someones life, yet it’s consequences have become the entire story.

  • Makes sense to me ..glad he’s speaking out now..

  • Now if he would just said that while In power
    Ever notice how they never share their common sense ideas til After they’ve left power

  • Cash crops help farmers in every country.

  • There goes the black budget!

  • It’s not a war on drugs it’s a war on personal freedom ok. Keep that in mind at all times. – Bill Hicks

  • And Ben Carson wants to EXPAND this war?!!

  • Agreed 100%, legalize all drugs. End this futile war.

  • It was a war on, cutting into government profits.

  • Too little too late. Should of said something when he was head of U.N

  • Bout damn time

  • why the change in conscience now? why not a few years ago? what’s changed besides the fact that you can no longer DO anything about it?

    • for crying out loud, i was saying this exact phrase while i was still in high school!

  • Yes, let’s legalise crack. Best idea ever.

  • He should have spoken out when he was secretary general its too late now

  • Doesn’t this just tell us that all the fuckers in office right now know what’s up? – Almost all of them fear the consequences of speaking out while in office, so they choose not to, and those who don’t, are in on it.

    And then a couple of years after, when they’ve got the golden handshake, they “suddenly get a revelation”.

    Fucking corrupt bitches, all of them.

  • Paranoia begone. We can all come out now!

  • alcohol is the most destructive DRUG there is.

  • KofI Annan should have DONE SOMETHING when he was the Secretary-General of the UN.

  • Obviously the mans never had a strung out tweeker try to rob his ass

  • exactly the intolerant – and the UN-evolved– prudes-green insecure people–WHO CANT STAND THE TRUTH- like jack said.

  • These are public health issues, and should be treated as such.

  • Better late than never

  • should be looked at

  • Sniffing glue is worse for you than smoking Marijuana ….. and it is not illegal .