Next month world leaders or their representatives will descend on New York City to attend another United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the global drug problem.
When world leaders last met for this purpose it was 1998, and it was a much simpler time — a time when people thought reducing drug use was merely a matter of prohibiting the use of those drugs. In fact, at the very least vast reductions in cocaine, opium and cannabis use were supposed to be evident by the year 2008. Needless to say, projections were a little off.
The man who headed up the UN in 1998, Kofi Annan, recently wrote this about the drug war: “Globally, the ‘war on drugs’ has not succeeded. Some estimate that enforcing global prohibition costs at least $100 billion (€90.7 billion) a year, but as many as 300 million people now use drugs worldwide, contributing to a global illicit market with a turnover of $330 billion a year, one of the largest commodity markets in the world.
“Prohibition has had little impact on the supply of or demand for drugs. When law enforcement succeeds in one area, drug production simply moves to another region or country, drug trafficking moves to another route and drug users switch to a different drug. Nor has prohibition significantly reduced use. Studies have consistently failed to establish the existence of a link between the harshness of a country's drug laws and its levels of drug use.”
As minds change, so do perceptions. As obvious as it was then that prohibition was going to work, it’s just as obvious now that it won’t. Calls are coming from all quarters for an end to these failed policies. In the Northern Hemisphere alone we are not only seeing the liberalization of cannabis laws in the U.S., but attempts at legalization in Canada and Mexico as well.
The walls of global prohibition are crumbling. Next month in New York City leaders from around the world will grab their sledgehammers and start swinging.