(LOS ANGELES TIMES) — At what is being billed as the most significant high-level gathering on global drug policy in two decades, the stage will be set for world leaders to discuss what would have once been unthinkable — reversing course in the war on drugs.
The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, which begins Tuesday in New York, will bring together government, human rights and health leaders to discuss whether the hard-line tactics of combating drug trafficking and money laundering have failed.
It will also provide a forum for reformists and government leaders who are pushing for turning the current drug policy on its head by halting drug-related incarcerations, treating drug abuse as a health issue rather than a crime and even legalizing drugs.
“The drug control regime that emerged during the last century has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights,” reads a statement to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that was signed last week by more than 1,000 world leaders, activists and celebrities. The letter urges a complete rethinking of the conventional war on drugs.
As the summit opened Tuesday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced new international recommendations, including the decriminalization of marijuana, universal access to controlled medicines, criminal justice system reforms including elimination of mandatory minimum jail sentences and abolition of the death penalty and acknowledging marijuana’s medical use.
“The science increasingly supports decriminalization and harm reduction over proscriptive, fear-based approaches,” UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s time to reverse the cycles of violence that occur wherever ‘drug wars’ are undertaken, and to abandon policies that exacerbate suffering.”