Activity

The Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation for hte United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem was held on February 10 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Consultation was an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to contribute to the ongoing process and to share their expertise and experience as an input for consideration for Member States in the negotiations of the outcome document.

Mr George Oching Odalo from Slum Child Foundation shared the following statement at round table two on Drugs Human Rights, Community and Development.

Dear Chairman and Consultation Participants:

I am George Ochieng Odalo from Slum Child Foundation in Kenya. It is my first time in New
York City and in the United Nations building here. Thank you for allowing me to speak.
Our NGO has many years of experience assessing and assisting some of the world’s poorest
children. We want everyone to hear our thoughts about drug policy, drug interventions and
human rights.

I, too, have been a street boy from the slums of Korogocho, Kenya — so I know well the
children and families on whose behalf I speak. These are people who have no voice — and
profoundly inadequate consideration in world affairs. They are often hopeless. They lack
food — so education, healthcare and jobs are even second thoughts.
Which brings me immediately to the issue of drugs. We know this to be true: drug use
during childhood and adolescence is especially dangerous. Let there be no debate that
youth are especially vulnerable to developing addiction and that substance abuse during
adolescence is strongly associated with many poor outcomes.
Let there also be no debate that adults who profit from drug sales are profiting from
youth. We all know it. Look no further than the American state of Colorado for evidence of
the marketing and advertising aimed at children. Once unleashed, this marketing and
advertising will never be regulated, and we all know it. We have ignored and excused
devious tactics employed by the alcohol and tobacco industries too long. Our world — and
especially my small corner of it — cannot afford more of this glorification of mind-altering
substances.

Unfortunately, it needs to be said — and repeated at every U.N. meeting: the world’s
poorest communities are the most vulnerable to the harms of drug use and trade.
Legalizing drugs in the United States and other wealthy countries does not help poor
countries like mine. It harms us. Cities like Nairobi simply do not have the resources to
provide the services needed to address the problems we have already. We certainly will
not be able to combat the even heavier burdens that would come from more drug
legalization and the relentless marketing and media aimed at us by far wealthier
countries. I know this because I already can see how the world’s richest countries fail to
find the resources to address their drug problems and care for their children and their
poor. They like to talk about the taxes they make from drug sales without acknowledging
these naked truths — and without considering populations so poor there are no taxes to
collect.

Substance abuse and addiction must be combatted by countries working together. I do not
see this happening with current drug policy. Unfortunately, I see people who want to use
and profit from recreational drugs without regard for how that will harm countries like
mine. I see people demanding legal reforms without also acknowledging that drug
legalization is not required to achieve them. I see people pushing for drug policies that are
not rooted in responsible science reported by the world’s most respected scientists and
medical associations.

The money pushing for more drug use and more drug legalization is flowing — just as it
always does when people want to buy their power, fame, politics and even more fortune.
It is up to this world body to put a stop to this corruption and this influence. We must
remain vigilant and rise above industry tactics. We must remain determined to reach for
the aspirational goal of promoting and building a world in which children have the right to
grow up in drug-free environments. At the very least, we must reject policies that teach
them recreational drug use is normal, acceptable — and even desirable.
We must certainly not become enablers in the same way people are worn down and
manipulated by those with substance addiction. We must set firm limits. We must guard
against statements crafted after meetings, such as the session on drugs and human rights
the Human Rights Council in Geneva held in September. A report issued from that meeting
lists nine items and starts with the “right to harm reduction” — which is defined as "illicit
drug use shall not be discouraged.” Let me repeat that: “illicit drug use shall not be
discouraged.”

What signals do statements such as this send? And are they in line with Commentary 14
from the Monitoring Body for the 1966 Covenant on Economic, Social, and Political Rights,
which makes clear that states shall prevent and discourage illicit drug use? And can we
honestly say that the Convention on the Rights of the Child — which makes clear that
children’s rights shall be a primary consideration for all policy making — is respected in
that report when children rank scant mention and last on a list of considerations?
I think not. We are letting rich countries — and the corrupt leaders of poor ones —
dominate these drug-policy debates for the least noble reasons. We know that adults
struggling with substance addiction overwhelmingly started their drug use when they were children. We know drug use weakens even the richest societies. So, again, thank you for
allowing me to be on record here for the world’s poorest, most vulnerable children. Count
me among those who are standing against the selfish desires and financial agendas that
are often cloaked by words and phrases like “justice,” “medicine” and “harm reduction.”
The Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation for hte United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem was held on February 10 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Consultation was an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to contribute to the ongoing process and to share their expertise and experience as an input for consideration for Member States in the negotiations of the outcome document.

Ms Asia Ashraf, Director at the Psychology Department at Sunny Trust International Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre in Pakistan did the following statement at the opening segment:

Honorable Chair, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
 
May I speak this morning on a rather neglected area of drug abuse in many parts of the world including my own country Pakistan, the female drug abuse? Drug abuse in Pakistan is typically considered a male problem, although UNODC survey in 2013 found 1.5 million or 22% female drug users out of the total 6.7 million illicit drug users nationwide.
 
Female substance use is on the rise among the urban educated classes, in colleges, offices and homes with tranquilizers and painkillers more commonly used by middle class women and cannabis used by poorer women at shrines, tombs and slums. Their numbers may be under-reported with possible “hidden” population of female drug users, as noted by UNODC in 2010.
 
Female drug abuse in Pakistan remains under-studied, except for UNODC studies and briefs and some limited research. Overall drug treatment services are highly deficient, accessed by only 30,000 drug users, and do not address the needs of female drug users. Lack of female-friendly services and female drug users’ reluctance to seek professional/qualified help due to social stigma, family reputation, marital risks and cultural constraints makes them doubly suffer in silence or be exploited by quacks, dubious faith-healers, and untrained psychiatrists treating them as mental cases. There is dearth of expertise and understanding on female-specific drug abuse treatment & rehab. A female- focused response by the state and by NGOs have yet to address this critical need.
 
I personally got interested and involved in treatment of female drug users in Pakistan while actually serving a 50-bed male drug treatment & rehab facility, Sunny Trust International Addiction Treatment & Rehabilitation Centre in Islamabad.
 
In the course of my last 12 years of work at Sunny Trust, I often came across people initially making discreet enquires for treatment of a male family members, but later opening up and seeking help in confidence for a female drug users in the family. Our outdoor counseling and support was of some benefit, but not always enough, since they could not be admitted in a male facility and no female service around to refer them to.
 
It set us thinking on the need for separate female-friendly drug treatment service within our socio-cultural setting. We got more female staff and trained them to deal with both in-house male patients and outdoor male and female counseling.
 
One evening, an educated, professional lady barged into our office along with her 18 years old daughter, desperately insisting that we admit her for drug treatment. We regretted since this was a male facility. The standoff continued until she simply dumped her and left. 
She was a high school dropout, with history of sexual abuse, whose alcoholic father and drug abusing brother drove her mad. She also turned to poly-drug abuse, now in chronic condition.
 
We were forced out of compassion to quickly create a temporary, one-patient separate female ward, making her feel at home and starting her treatment involving our female staff. She passed through different stages of recovery and rehabilitation, regaining control of herself, drug-free and smoke-free, to the joy of her mother and her own satisfaction. Back home, she persuaded her father and brother to get treated, and got both admitted to our centre. Back to school, she resumed her studies, married and moved on happily in life. We all believe “One Can Change”, I believe if that “One” is woman, change is massive.
 
Later, she brought her former drug-buddy for treatment at our centre. She came from a broken home, totally lost to drugs. We happily re-created the separate female-friendly arrangement and admitted her. She soon rehabilitated, strong and healthy, completed her studies. She had to fight out the stigma of her drug-ridden past including her treatment. We continued to extent her follow-up support.
 
Both cases served as our instructive piloting of female treatment. We decided to establish a separate Sunny Trust female treatment & rehabilitation facility. We have acquired the land and physical planning is underway. I am here in the US on a year-long Hubert H. Humphrey fellowship at the Virginia Commonwealth University to gain knowledge and skills for treatment of female drug users. I am working on the plan to set up a separate female drug treatment facility in Pakistan. This will also serve as a resource and training centre for female-specific services in Pakistan and the region. But it will be just a small drop in ocean. I expect UNGASS 2016 will lead a female-focused and community-based global campaign to deal with the problems of this special group.
 
Beyond sharing this very modest personal story, let me remind this worthy gathering that saving millions of men and women already lost to drugs remains a global obligation. And preventing many more from falling prey to drugs is an even bigger global responsibility. The horrific drug situation confronting the world is a result of collective global failure. It’s so easy and effortless falling into the drug trap, so terribly devastating living under drugs and so difficult coming out of drugs. The enormity of the drug problem is already a global nightmare.
 
UNGASS 2016 must take on this challenge head on and show the way to ridding humanity of this global drug menace. We have only two options: a drug-free world or a drug-doomsday----which we cannot afford. Compromises and half-way measures cannot endure over time and are bound to eventually fall apart. I am not against any approach but, I really want to highlight the important role of prevention and stronger community coalition in this field. It’s either now or never, so we must act.  Let UNGASS define the vision, and set goal, priorities and benchmarks, for realizing a drug-free world within our lifetime."
 
Thank you.
 

 
Call for Nomination: Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016) 10 February 2016 United Nations Headquarters, NY
 
Deadlines:            
31 December 2015:        Apply for Speaking Roles
31 December 2015:        Apply for Moderator Role
13 January 2016:  General registration of Participants 

Background 
The General Assembly, in its resolution 67/193 of 20 December 2012, has decided to convene, in early 2016, a special session to review the progress made in the implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem, including an assessment of the achievements and challenges in countering the world drug problem, within the framework of the three international drug control conventions and other relevant United Nations instruments.
 
Furthermore, the General Assembly decided in resolution 69/200, that the special session shall have an inclusive preparatory process that includes extensive substantive consultations, allowing organs, entities and specialized agencies of the United Nations system, relevant international and regional organizations, civil society and other relevant stakeholders to fully contribute to the process, in accordance with relevant rules of procedure and established practice.
 
To that end, there will be an Informal Interactive Stakeholder Consultation for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016) on 10 February 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Consultation is an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to contribute further to the ongoing preparatory process for UNGASS 2016 by sharing practical expertise and experiences from their work on the ground as an input for consideration by Member States in the negotiations of the outcome document.  It presents also an opportunity for stakeholders to prepare for their contributions to the interactive multi-stakeholder round tables at UNGASS.
 
All organizations wishing to attend the one-day Consultation will need to register by applying here. Applications for general registration for the Consultation are being accepted from 17 December 2015 – 13 January 2016. 
 
The one-day Consultation features an Opening Segment, two interactive-round tables and a closing segment.
 
Stakeholders are invited to apply to speak at the Consultation, by completing the form available here.  Applications will be accepted from 17 – 31 December 2015. The following criteria will be used when selecting speakers: 
  • Must represent an organization actively working in the drug field and be authorized to speak on behalf of that organization.  Priority will be given to organizations working at the grassroots level;
  • Gender balance;
  • Geographical balance and in the case of equal qualification, representatives from the Global South will be prioritised;
  • Thematic balance in terms of approaches to drug policies to represent the broad spectrum and richness of NGO contributions;
  • The call is open to ECOSOC and non-ECOSOC accredited NGOs.
 
A Moderator will facilitate each of the two round tables that are a feature of the Consultation.  To be considered for the Moderator role, applicants should be knowledgeable about the subject matter, generally good at including as many voices as possible in the discussion and able to steer the discussion. Please use the form at this link to apply to be a Moderator.
 
A Selection Committee, comprised of members of the Steering Committee Group of the Civil Society Task Force for UNGASS on Drugs, has been established in order to ensure broad and inclusive participation of stakeholders in the Consultation. To learn more about the Civil Society Task Force, please visit www.cstfondrugs.org.
 
Moderators, speakers and other participants are strongly encouraged to take into consideration the following guiding questions for the discussion: 
  1. What are the main challenges that exist for implementing a health approach to drugs? 
  2. Given the recent call for a health approach in drug policy, how should a health focus address the need of the society as a whole, including the marginalized groups and communities, taking into account age and gender perspectives? 
  3. Acknowledging the links in illicit drug trade, crime, and development policy, what synergies could be created between relevant stakeholders and Member States addressing alternative development, including within the framework of the SDG’s? 
  4. How can Member States and other relevant stakeholders respond effectively to current and emerging threats to health, including hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, untreated pain, and new psychoactive substances (NPS)?
  5. How should relevant stakeholders best support Member States to envision and implement inclusive, people-centred and evidence based drug policies and equal access to justice?
We encourage you to participate in the call for nominations, as well as to share it widely in your networks!
 
For further information on the above, please contact the Civil Society Task Force on Drugs at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
WFAD invites, together with Drug Policy Futures, Recovered Users Union and UNODC, to a side event that will highlight the importance of recovery.

The side event will take place on December 9 at Vienna International Center, in connection with the reconvened CND at 13.00.

Recovery is a way to enable for individuals who have developed drug related problems to function effectively in society and to empower them to take control of their own lives. Community based recovery fellowship provide important opportunities for mutual help. Treatment systems must provide a wide range of effective services to assist people who use drugs in their efforts to recover. These services must be based on the same rigorous evidence and the same principle of non-discrimination that are expected in other sectors of the health system.

The aim of the event is to discuss recovery both in theory and in practice. Boro Goic, representative of recovered users in the Civil Society Task Force, will share the preliminary results from his consultation with recovery organizations around the world. We will also discuss the scientific basis for recovery and how UNODC works to promote recovery from drug addiction.

Speakers
Boro Goic Chairman, Recovered Users Network, representing recovered users in the Civil Society Task Force
David Best Professor of Criminology Development and Society, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Gilberto Gerra Chief, Drug Prevention and Health Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 

Moderator
Linda Nilsson Secretary General, World Federation Against Drugs

Organized by:
World Federation Against Drugs
Recovered Users Network
Drug Policy Futures
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

5th World Forum Against Drugs

 

The 5th World Forum Against Drugs is planned to take plcae in Vienna, Austria on March 12-13, 2016! 

2016 is a special year in international drug policy. The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem will be hosted on April 19-21. This is the biggest meeting on the world drug problem in almost 20 years. Member states and the civil society begun the preparation for the UNGASS meeting already in 2012.

WFAD plans to host the 5th World Forum Against Drugs before the start of the 59th CND meeting and we will invite all our members to the Forum, so please save the date for this important meeting!

The aim of the Forum will be two folded; to share the knowledge and experience of member organization together with new knowledge and experience in from researchers; and to gather the best practices to also be put forward to the member states at the CND meeting. The CND meeting will be one of the last opportunitites to influence member states before the UNGASS meeting.
 
More information will come about practical details around the Forum and also more detailed program.
 
If you have any questions or input for the Forum please contact Linda Nilsson

 MG 5122

Your experience is essential in the UNGASS preparatory process. The Survey on Youth is part of the global civil society consultation for UNGASS 2016. We want to voice the opinions of young people, and assess civil society work worldwide, related to youth and drugs. You can reply to the survey either as an individual or an organization.

Your input will provide the Civil Society Task Force with invaluable information to bring to global policy makers at the United Nations, for the UNGASS preparation and beyond. You can access the survey through this link:
https://ungasscstf.typeform.com/to/chdS8x

If you have questions or want to know more about the voice of the young people in the UNGASS process, please contact the youth representative in the Civil Society Task Force, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it from Active - Sobriety, Friendship, Peace.

More information about the UNGASS process can be found here, and here you can find more information about the involvement of the Civil Society in the process.

 

The following resolution was adopted at the closing ceremony of the 17th Congress of Addiction, hosted by Centros de Integración de Juvenil and World Federation Against Drugs.  


1. Nowadays, the participation of the organized civil society is strategic to frame broad impact public policies that favor global wellbeing.

2. Our children and youth have the right to grow up in a drug-free environment, where they can achieve their full potential.

3. We defend the Article 33 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child to protect childhood from drug-abuse:

"States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances."


4. Drug-abuse is a global problem that harms millions and unbalance families, the foundation of sound communities and nations. Civil society has the right to rely on itself and its government work for a drug-free environment

5. The essence of drug policies should be health safeguarding and to contribute to the development of safe community environments, impervious to illegal drug supply.

6. Social development, democratic improvement, and equality should be the basis of far-reaching policies in terms of its effects and permanency.

On road to UNGASS 2016, we declare our commitment to:

Discuss the current drug-audit global system while affirming the key objectives of international conventions.

Drive scientific debates in relation to drugs, where the main objective is to preserve community health, and particularly that of children and youth, the most-at-risk population.

Foster in every country the respect for human rights for users and non-users alike, as well as the right to health and social insertion.

Avoid stigmatization of substance users. Instead, strengthen their way back to society.

Favor in each legislation laws made to ponder the proportionality in sentencing for drug possession.

Settle options of alternative justice to support the social reintegration of people that have committed drug crimes.

Have influence upon the governments so that they strengthen civil programs focused on prevention, treatment and social reintegration, as well as on the training of professionals that deal with its assistance and study. 3

Close the existent budget gaps between the programs oriented to fight drug supply and those directed to drug demand reduction.

Raise governments, civil society and community’s awareness of the fact that accessibility to work, education, culture, and amusement are the best basis against drug consumption and trafficking.

Inform governments, civil society, mass media, social media and community about the risks of legalizing drugs.

For all of the above reasons, it is thus essential to set up a new institutional network, where the same principles are shared, working to counter legalization of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and whose main objective is to gain a greater impact, continental in scope, and favoring social welfare and that of childhood and youth particularly.

Dear civil society representatives,

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session, UNGASS, on the world drug problem will be held on 19-21 April 2016. This is the most important meeting around drugs at international level in 20 years. I am writing to you to ask for you expertise in your prevention work as an input to the UNGASS meeting.

In order to include the views and work of civil society, a Civil Society Task Force (CSTF) has been created.  The CSTF acts as official liaison between the United Nations and civil society in the preparatory process of and at the UNGASS.  The objective of the CSTF is to ensure a comprehensive, structured, meaningful and balanced participation of civil society in this process.

The CSTF consists of 31 members representing regions in the world, affected populations and global voices. I represent the global voice of prevention and this is the reason why I am writing to you. I am interested in collecting the voices of civil society around prevention. In particular, I am interested in knowing (i) your best practices and ideas on how to prevent illicit drug use and (ii) your views on global drug policies.
The UNGASS will be structured in five different thematic areas:
  1. Drugs and health;
  2. Drugs and crime;
  3. Human rights, women, children and communities;
  4. New challenges, threats and realities in addressing the world drug problem;
  5. Drugs and (alternative) development.
You are invited to share your input with me along these thematic areas and/or the lines below:
  • What works in prevention and where do you see room for improvement;
  • What do we know and where do we need more knowledge;
  • Innovating ideas;
  • Drug policies and their implementation;
  • Your expectations from UNGASS and beyond.
I also ask you to share descriptions of your prevention models if possible. I aim to add all the models/descriptions/manuals around prevention to the report as an appendix. This will be an important input to the UNGASS process.
Please also remember to state the name and region of your organization and send me ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) your reply by December 1. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Linda Nilsson
Secretary General, World Federation Against Drugs
Member of Civil Society Task Force, representing prevention
Phone: +46705734259
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Skype: rns_linda
DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF MOST AT RISK CHILDREN TO THE FORTHCOMING  UNITED NATION GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION (UNGASS) ON THE WORLD DRUG PROBLEM IN NEW YORK 2016

Definition


Most at risk Child: Any child who stands the risk of being exposed to Narcotics as per UNCRC definition, which states that; “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances”. More so street children and children living in the rural and poor urban settlements

We, the children gathered today for the children convention on illicit drugs on 26th of September 2015 In Nairobi, Kenya do declare as follows:
  1. Taking note of the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989 entry into force 2 September 1990, in accordance with article 49 that children are protected from illicit drug through all means to ensure global Drug- free goal in both prevention and treatment. 

  2. Affirming that most at risk children are equal to all other children and state parties should ensure that they recognize and protect them from all sorts of illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as stated in article 33 of the United Nation children right convention, and to be respected as such like any other child. This shall mean that the ambition shall be a drug free environment also for children at risk, in line with Article 33.

  3. Guided by the purposes and principles of the United Nation Children right Convention, and UNICEF’s child protection policy from 2008, and commitment by state parties in the fulfillment of the obligations in accordance with the Convention, commit not to allow legalization (occasionally referred to as decriminalization) of possession of drugs for personal use, as the net effect of such sanctions is often harmful to society more so children and especially most at risk, and if allowed by state parties will lead to breaching of the UN drug conventions, by facilitating illicit drug use among first world citizens at the expense of a drug free environment for children there, as well as an increased risk that third world children will be recruited for illicit production and trafficking, described in ILO Convention 182 as among the worst forms of child labour.

  4. Convinced that Article 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is the only core UN human rights convention that capture illicit drugs and need not to be changed as there is no mistake in the meaning and intention of CRC Article 33. 

  5. Affirming also that all children more so most at risk if protected from Narcotics will contribute to the wellness, diversity and richness of cultures, which constitute the common bond and growth of many societies globally,

  6. Affirming further that all United Nations state parties should come up with doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating priority attention to children’s rights as per CRC in policy making, including drug policy, as per CRC Article 3, particularly considering that those at risk are protected from illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances

  7. Recognizing the urgent need by state parties to respect and promote the right of children and remain committed to so without allowing political, economic and social structures influence from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, 

  8. Recognizing also the urgent need by state parties to respect and promote the right of children from drugs by ensuring they have an affirmative and essential right to drug-free childhoods as stated in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements with other States and international bodies,

  9. Reaffirming that children more so the most at risk, in the exercise of their rights, should be free from discrimination of any kind, thus the need by state parties to take appropriate measures to keep them free through all means from illicit drugs.

  10. Recognizing in particular that there is no any convention that allows nonmedical and recreational use of illicit drugs as a protected lifestyle choice, state parties should commit not to come up with any convention that will allow this

  11. Emphasizing that undefined concepts such as “war on drugs”, “harm reduction”, “de-criminalization” etc shall be left without attention until these have been defined..

  12. Welcoming the fact that international drug policy debates at the moment in the world should change focus more to children than Adult since they have been overshadowed by the moral and legal obligation to protect them from drugs more so those at risk since Drug use most commonly starts in adolescence.

  13. Emphasizing that the United Nations should urge their international partners and donors to avail more funding to Fund practical implications on drug policy, advocacy and lobby to children more so those at risk, and avoid employing celebrities with a record of drug transgressions as Goodwill Ambassadors.

 



 

The book, ‘Chasing the Scream’ by Johann Hari, is being promoted world-wide by a strong pro-drug lobby. This article is a snapshot of a more detailed critique being published in the ‘Quadrant’ in November. Those who have the health and well-being of our communities (and especially our emerging generations) will do well to read this and the complete article. They will then be better positioned to judge for themselves the best course of future action we need to take to prevent illicit drugs from spreading.

Some quotes from the Critique article are:

“Hari’s approach is not limited to the underhanded titling all illicit drug policy ‘a war on drugs’, but rather a far more explicit, creative rewriting of drug policy history, manufacturing an illusion that the historic international agreements prohibiting the recreational use of opium, heroin and cocaine in 1912 and of cannabis in 1925 are really all the work of one dishonest US bureaucrat, Harry Anslinger. 

That Anslinger led the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 through to 1962, commencing years after these agreements were established, does not deter Hari from rearranging history to suit his thesis that ‘Anslinger treacherously beguiled and bewitched the entire world into prohibiting the very drugs which Hari believes are largely beneficial with significantly less harm than alcohol or tobacco’.

To make this thesis work Hari has to creatively unhinge his creative assertions from verifiable fact, fact that is eminently verifiable (given every Anslinger file from his 32 years at the Bureau is still archived at Pennsylvania State University). 

Hari’s treatment of Anslinger commences with, “From the moment he took charge of the bureau, Harry was aware of the weakness of his new position.  A war on narcotics alone—cocaine and heroin, outlawed in 1914—wasn’t enough.  They were used only by a tiny minority, and you couldn’t keep an entire department alive on such small crumbs.  He needed more.” 

Such a creative rearrangement of history ignores the fact that Anslinger, when commencing his work in 1930 at the Bureau, did everything he could to avoid the public hue and cry led by various newspapers and legislators in the Southwest regarding the use and effects of marijuana.  Anslinger maintained that cannabis was not being imported as was opium or cocaine, but rather domestically grown, and should therefore be controlled by each State rather than the Federal Government’s 1914 Harrison Act.  It was not until 1937 that Anslinger begrudgingly acceded to pressure, a very different reality to Hari’s inversion of facts to suit his emotionally appealing but fanciful polemic which carefully avoids the reality of how and why these prohibitions were initially instituted.

Along with previous legalisation apologists, Hari ridicules Anslinger’s views concerning cannabis harms, particularly his promotion of cannabis as a cause of drug-related violence and madness.  Despite the lampooning of the lobby there is now a copious science indicating a dose-response relationship between cannabis and psychosis with a February 2015 Lancet study finding that daily users of high THC cannabis have a fivefold risk of psychosis.  Previous studies had indicated a doubling of psychosis risk from lower THC cannabis use. 

Studies in 2003 by Niveau & Dang and in 2007 by Howard & Menkes have investigated the effect of cannabis on a particular neural mechanism controlling impulse and found a connection with violence and aggression.  It stands to reason that the lowering of inhibitions via intoxication will create a greater expression of violence in those so predisposed, whether by alcohol or cannabis.  In the Geneva Convention discussions of 1925, the Egyptian delegate M. El Guindy implored the prohibiting of cannabis on the basis of ‘madness’ associated with its use, but also that its intoxication ‘takes a violent form in persons of violent character.’   Contrary to Hari’s assertions, Anslinger was never alone in linking violence and madness with cannabis use and modern science exposes Hari’s scorn. 

There are significant lessons that can be drawn from the elevated use of drugs due to their legality.  Clearly, a society can ill-afford any drug use becoming entrenched since reversing widespread use and acceptance comes at an exorbitant cost.  Also, our experience with tobacco teaches that educating the public about its real harms has inevitably caused an increased disapproval of tobacco users, which has been a factor in reducing use.  Hari appears to recognise this when he states that ‘As a result of this policy where tobacco is legal but increasingly socially disapproved of, cigarette smoking has fallen dramatically.”  He fails to recognise the contradiction, though, between the positive impact of what is effectively a stigmatisation of tobacco users, and his advocacy for the removal of any stigma from illicit drug use.  Little does he seem to recognise as an apologist for illicit drugs that there inevitably will be a stigma on any activity that presents gratuitous harms to any community, and it is a stigmatisation which works to stifle recruitment of new users and the further expansion of drug use.  Hari cannot have it both ways.

There is another lesson to be drawn from tobacco use where the harms have been advertised and are so well known.  Despite the millions put into prevention and education, the uptake by teens and early-twenty year olds of such a senseless habit still continues.  With no more glamorous advertising to sell the product, tobacco companies still continue due to current users recruiting new users.  All this with a legal product as irrational as heroin.  It is therefore not the prohibition of the illicit drugs that chiefly drives their expansion, as Hari alleges, because as with tobacco, users recruit new users for reasons other than supporting their own habit”. 

Jo Baxter 
Vice President World Federation Against Drugs
Executive Director, Drug Free Australia 

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