In 1961, the United Nations adopted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty that prohibits the production and supply of narcotic drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis. This year the Convention turned 50 and a very strange group of people are celebrating its birthday party: a group of drug lord-lookalikes! These ‘drug lords’ (NGO protesters incognito) hosted an unofficial opening of the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna to demand 50 more years of drug prohibition because “illegal is profitable”.
The last decades of drug policy, dominated by stigmatization and the detention of drug-users, seem only to have benefited those who should not receive any help in running their businesses: criminals. By prohibiting the use of drugs, almost the complete production and distribution of narcotic drugs has been given into the hands of criminals. The same patterns of action and failure were witnessed during the years of alcohol-prohibition, which can also be used as a good example of how the perception of what is a dangerous drug has changed over time. While governments encourage criminals to take over a market with an annual turnover of more than 400 billion dollars, the drug users are deliberately exposed to huge health-risks, jail and public discrimination.
The prohibition was certainly implemented with good intentions. Drugs can be very bad for human health and impose huge costs on public health-systems all over the world. However, politics should be based on facts, not on good intentions.
After 50 years of scientific research that prove failure on a global scale, most politicians still seem unwilling to break the taboo and start to revaluate drug policies. Most of them still consider drugs a criminal problem and don’t regard it as a health-care issue. It is time to remember Charles De Gaulle’s saying: “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”