Thursday, September 25, 2008

Transform responds to World Forum Against Drugs Declaration

As part of the mailing list for the UNODC's Beyond 2008 drug policy event, Transform have been contacted by David Evans from the US based Drug Free Schools Coalition, encouraging us to sign the World Forum Against Drugs declaration from their recent event in Sweden (See Alex Wodak's response blogged here). A response from Transform that was sent to the list is copied below:

Dear David

Transform will not be signing up to the WFAD declaration.

Transform's mission:

Transform exists to promote sustainable health and wellbeing by bringing about a just, effective and humane system to regulate and control drugs at local, national and international levels.

Firstly though, I must give WFAD credit for representing our work in its correct light:

"Regulated Legalization: The production and distribution of drugs would be government regulated, with limits on the amount that can be purchased and the age of purchasers. There would be no criminal or civil sanction for possessing,manufacturing, or distributing drugs unless these actions violated the regulatory system. Drug sales could be taxed."

It is a sign of where we have brought the debate that WFAD understands so clearly what we are doing.

We concur with many of the issues raised by others on this list who have made clear why they will not be signing up to the Declaration. As you might guess, we disagree with much of the following statement:
"We oppose all forms of legalization of illicit/psychotropic drugs because such policies do not withstand critical evaluation, tend to run contrary to general experience and violate the Conventions."
Whilst we absolutely agree that legal regulation violates the Conventions, we are more interested in sustainable wellbeing than we are in the sanctity of outdated and counterproductive Conventions. Indeed there is an enormous amount of evidence to show that replacing the Conventions with an apparatus that would allow drugs to be legally regulated would not only remove the counter productive effects of the war on drugs, but would create a context in which we could promote the wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

I'm not going to cite references here, but would rather refer you to our website which links to most of the key works and provides analysis to show that much of what we call the 'drug problem' is in fact the 'prohibition/war on drugs problem'. Even Mr Costa, in his paper "Making drug control 'fit for purpose': Building on the UNGASS decade" has conceded that the drug control system has created a huge criminal market, displaced policy from health to enforcement and displaces production and supply from one region of the world to another. Unfit for purpose is something of an understatement.

This is from Julian Critchley, former Director of the UK Anti-Drug Co-ordinating Unit, posting to a BBC blog last month (he now supports the legal regulation of drugs):
"I think what was truly depressing about my time in UKADCU was that the overwhelming majority of professionals I met, including those from the police, the health service, government and voluntary sectors held the same view : the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those intelligent, knowledgeable people were forced to repeat the nonsensical mantra that the Government would be 'tough on drugs', even though they all knew that the Government's policy was actually causing harm."
The general experience of most people I have met, (including those involved in WFAD), is that despite the enormous public health problems associated with the misuse of alcohol and tobacco, that prohibition would not improve health and social outcomes associated with their use and misuse. Sadly the critical evaluation applied to these drugs (that supports their legal regulation) is entirely absent in WFAD's analysis of the drugs arbitrarily identified in the Conventions. It is because we believe that drugs are potentially dangerous as well as potentially beneficial that we call for them to be legally regulated.

The Conventions should not be treated like religious Covenants, such that those who challenge their wisdom are denounced as heretics. They are agreements misguidedly signed up to by those who had no idea of the discrimination, degradation and death that they were unleashing on future generations.

One day the Conventions will no longer stand in the way of legally regulated markets because legal regulation is increasingly being recognised as an effective, just and humane alternative to the war on drugs. Our job is to help build a movement that will work to hasten the day that this possibility is made available to nation states whose citizens choose it.

Your declaration is anathema to the central tenets of our mission and we therefore decline to sign up.


Danny Kushlick
Head of Policy and Communications

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