A leaked U.N. document revealed that 7 countries and the European Union itself are having second thoughts on the War on Drugs. The document is a draft of a statement to be published this Spring, which will outline the thinking for the once-a-decade U.N. convention on drugs.
South and Central American countries are well represented on the list of countries that don’t like the War on Drugs (almost every country directly south of the United States has endured a lot of harm from the War on Drugs), but there are some surprises on the list. Then again, the utter failure of marijuana prohibition and the treatment of drug use as a crime, not a public health issue, is an open secret. It is more or less impossible to look at the data and call marijuana prohibition specifically, and the War on Drugs in general a success. It seems certain governments have caught on. Here are the countries outed by the U.N. draft memo as being against the War On Drugs:
Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala have to observe the effects of the War on Drugs first hand. Drug cartels, funded largely through sales of marijuana and cocaine, have tremendous power in these countries. The War on Drugs only helps the cartels, by pushing all sales to the black market, and creating a survival-of-the-most-violent environment.
The leaked U.N. document shows that Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala are stepping up their criticism of the U.N.’s current pro-prohibition stance, and are pushing for alternatives. Prohibition, this trio claims, plays into the hands of the cartels.
South American Progressives
Ecuador and Venezuela don’t have a drug cartel issue on the same scale as Colombia and much of Central America, but they have long been more progressive than the United States on drug legalization. Uruguay is expected to legalize marijuana in the coming months. Venezuela, in the draft memo, urged the U.N. to consider "the economic implications of the current dominating health and law enforcement approach in tackling the world drug problem." Colombia’s neighbor argued that the U.N.’s current stance doesn’t deal realistically with the "dynamics of the drug criminal market.”
Ecuador made similar points, calling for the U.N. to look beyond prohibition and declared "a need for more effective results in addressing the world drug problem."
Surprise! Dissenters In Europe
With the notable exception of Amsterdam, Europe has historically fallen in line with the U.S. on the War on Drugs. That sentiment may be on its way out. Two countries known mostly for order and neutrality (okay, and chocolate, banks and fjords), Norway and Switzerland have stated their opposition to the War on Drugs. Norway wants the U.N. statement to pose “questions related to decriminalization,” and Switzerland rightly states that the draft should "note with concern that consumption prevalence has not been reduced significantly and that the consumption of new psychoactive substances has increased in most regions of the world."
Perhaps the biggest surprise at all, the European Union itself is not content with the status quo. The E.U. has called for the U.N. draft to emphasize public health solutions over incarceration as a solution to the War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs has been an abject failure. The countries most harmed by marijuana prohibition are speaking out first, but the sentiment is spreading around the world, making inroads in the United States and Europe. Fortunately, this is one case where John Lennon’s famous line is definitely true: war is over if you want it. For the War on Drugs, more and more states and countries want to put an end to that failed idea.