Wednesday, February 24, 2016


By William Yaw Owusu
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan has stressed that narcotic drugs should be legalized worldwide since the ‘war on drugs’ appears not to succeed.

“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,” he said.

In an article he personally wrote and first published in Der Spiegel International entitled, “Lift the ban!” the high-profile diplomat, aged 77 said, “Prohibition has had little impact on the supply of or demand for drugs.”

He said, however, that in the event that narcotic drugs are legalized, there should be strict regulations to curtail abuse and called on Germany, which he said “has adopted better policies at home,” to strongly advocate for policy change abroad.

According to Mr. Annan, it has been very difficult for governments and international bodies to bring the drug trade under control because “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.”

In his opinion, prohibition had not significantly reduced the use of drugs, saying “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.

“The widespread criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs, the over-crowded prisons mean that the war on drugs is to a significant degree a war on drug users — a war on people.”

He said evidence from the United States where cannabis has been legalized in some states for medical purposes showed that there had not been an increase in its use by teenagers, adding, “By contrast, there has been a near tripling of American deaths from heroin overdoses between 2010 and 2013 even though the law and its severe punishments remain unchanged.”

Mr. Kofi Annan said unfortunately there is a growing pattern in the consumption levels of narcotic drugs in Africa which hitherto had been a major transit region between producers in Latin America and consumers in Europe.

“Drug money and the criminality associated with it are fostering corruption and violence. The stability of countries and the region as a whole is under threat.

“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 former UN Secretary General underscored.

He said the time has come for governments to refocus international and national policy on the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs which seeks to protect the “health and welfare of mankind.”

The former UN chief said it is time for governments to “decriminalize personal drug use, accept that a drug-free world is an illusion, as well as look at regulation and public education rather than the total suppression of drugs which we know will not work.”

According to him, “The steps taken successfully to reduce tobacco consumption, a very powerful and damaging addiction, show what can be achieved.”

Mr Kofi Annan said scientific evidence and concerns for health and human rights must shape drug policy, adding, “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.

“The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem would be a good place to start the debate and change the world for the better.”

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