Time to End the War on Drugs

21 Mar 2009

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Produced by an Oscar-winning studio for the Global Drug Policy Program of the Open Society Institute, the International Drug Policy: Animated Report 2009 highlights some of the disastrous effects of drug policy in recent years. This short film seeks to show that pursuing a "drug-free world" can lead to more harm than good.

Ten years ago the United Nations (UN), thought they could free the world from drugs. By 2008, they aimed to wipe out the use of drugs. 

However, given discriminatory drug laws and the harm that the 'war on drugs' brings to ordinary people, the UN now faces the question: 

What has the war against drugs achieved?

At 320 billion dollars, the dug industry far outstrips the oil and gas market. it is estimated that 208 million people use illicit drugs every year.

The number of people arrested for drug-related offenses continues to rise steadily, all at a huge cost to the individual, their family and society.

Few prisons are free of drugs. HIV levels amongst inmates are much higher than among the general population due the use of "dirty needles".

Drug users with HIV are often refused anti-retroviral treatment on account of their drug use and are pushed out to the margins of society where they experience fear, shame, loneliness and isolation.

Over the last ten years, the amount of opium produced in the world has doubled. In 2007, 92% of the world's opium supply was grown in Afghanistan.

In Latin America, the cocoa plant is widely grown, easy to pick and transport. Many peasant farmers rely on this crop to make their living. The cocoa leaf is not only the raw ingredient of cocaine, but also holds great cultural significance. Military like attempts to destroy cocoa crops have resulted in poverty, violence and harm to the environment.

Back on the street, cocaine is a fraction of the price it used to be. It is no longer the drug of the elite. As drug barons rake in millions in profits, it is the peasant farmers and users who bear the brunt of law enforcement.

In Russia, police officers plant drugs on innocent people and then arrest them to inflate their crime busting figures.

In China and Vietnam, thousands of drug users are sent to labour camps and prisons where they are forced to work or spend their days in cramped cells. These centers do not offer any treatment that meets international standards. Instead, people are punished for their drug use.

The United States is the largest incarcerator of drug users. In the United States the proportion of African Americans in prison on drug-related charges is much higher than white Americans. While drug use among the two groups is comparable, a black male is 12 times more likely to be imprisoned on a drug-related charge.

A few years ago, the prime minister of Thailand launched a 'war on drugs', declaring that there was nothing under the sun that the Thai police couldn't do to make Thailand drug free. In 2003, a shocking 2,500 people were executed. Many of those executed were not drug dealers, but past and present drug users or people with no drug related history.

The 'war on drugs' is often a war against drug users that violates human rights. 

Given the negative impact of this war, last year Ban Ki Moon said, "No one should be discriminated against because of their dependence on drugs."

On 11 March 2009, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs had a meeting to review their strategy on the 'war on drugs'.

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/118.19.

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