Pubdate: Sun, 10 Apr 2016
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited
Author: Keith Morris


Jamie Doward's admirable special report rightly stressed the 
importance of the UN general assembly special session on drugs 
(Ungass) to be held in New York later this month.("Is the prohibition 
era finally coming to an end?", News, last week).

As Doward makes clear, the international drugs trade is an ongoing 
problem that affects all countries but reaches crisis level in 
producer and transit countries. It is to a very large degree the 
product of the well intentioned but misguided UN conventions that 
imposed drugs prohibition on all countries without regard for their 
cultures or traditions.

The evidence that the harms prohibition creates are much greater than 
any benefits has long been overwhelming. (I witnessed it in Pablo 
Escobar's bloody narco-terrorist campaign in Colombia in the early 
90s.) Since then, the drugs trade has fuelled extraordinary levels of 
violence in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela and Afghanistan, to 
name just the most dramatic cases.

A reformist group, led by Colombia and Mexico, has secured calls for 
greater flexibility for individual countries in the draft document of 
the forthcoming Ungass. But the prohibitionist bloc, led by Russia 
and China, has blocked any study of the failures of the system.

Uruguay, several US states, and soon Canada too, are experimenting 
with regulated markets in cannabis. This is the pragmatic way forward 
and will be followed by others. Let us hope that the world leaders 
meeting in New York will show more vision than the officials who 
prepared the draft document and, recognising the inevitability of 
change, signal the need for the conventions to take account of it.

Sir Keith Morris Ambassador to Colombia 1990-94 London SE19
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