Viewpoint: U.N. Admits Drug War Is ‘Floundering,’ but Is Regulating Recreational Drugs the Answer?

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A sample of synthetic drugs is displayed during a news conference at Drug Enforcement Agency headquarters on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC.

As the DEA reported its largest-ever bust of synthetic-drug dealers and manufacturers, the U.N. admitted that its law-enforcement efforts to contain illegal drugs have largely failed.

In an unusually frank admission in its annual World Drug Report, the U.N. conceded that its programs to create a “drug free” world have done little to control the emergence of man-made drugs like bath salts. But a new law in New Zealand could offer an alternative to the U.N.’s failed policies.

“While new harmful substances have been emerging with unfailing regularity on the drug scene, the international drug control system is floundering, for the first time, under the speed and creativity of the phenomenon known as new psychoactive substances,” the U.N. report conceded.

Its authors noted that the number of recently identified drugs — typically sold as “legal highs,” which mimic cannabis or methamphetamine, but often labeled as innocuous substances like “bath salts” — is now greater than that of internationally known controlled substances. With names like “miaow miaow” (mephedrone) or “spice” (which includes various synthetic marijuana-like drugs), 251 new substances intended for use as recreational drugs have been identified by international authorities. Under international drug-control conventions, only 234 drugs — including old-school favorites like cocaine and heroin — are currently considered illegal in all countries.

The DEA’s big bust, meanwhile, netted 2,000 lb. of the new drugs and 150 arrest warrants. Earlier results of the same investigation led to the seizure of $15 million in cash and assets and 75 arrests.

But with 11% of American high school seniors already reporting use of some type of “legal high” (overwhelmingly synthetic marijuana) in the past year, such arrests are clearly unable to hold back the tide of synthetic-drug use. More 12th graders used synthetic marijuana (11%) in the past year than took prescription painkillers (8%), heroin (.8%) or stimulants like Adderall (8%), according to the most recent national survey in 2011.

Nonetheless, the U.N. continues to stand by its international antidrug laws, which have not been revised significantly since 1988. In a preface to its report, the U.N. drug czar Yuri Fedotov wrote that member states “remain committed to the drug-control system” despite admitting that “globally, the demand for drugs has not been substantially reduced.” He offers no particular rationale for doing more of the same, simply calling for the rules to be “strengthened” and arguing, again, without providing specifics, that the system actually is “equipped to deal with the emergence of new substances.”

(MORE: Drug War Blocking Potential Treatments for Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Journal Claims)

New Zealand thinks otherwise. The country has had significant problems with legal highs since at least 2000, particularly with an amphetamine-like drug called benzylpiperazine (BZP). After catching on in California and being banned by the DEA, the drug became a popular source of highs in the 2000s, sold as an “herbal” or “natural” supplement with no regulations to stop it.

By 2008, when New Zealand outlawed BZP, sales were estimated at about $19 million to $27 million annually, with 5 million pills sold in 2007 alone. At first, New Zealand’s government played the same cat-and-mouse game with manufacturers of such substances that other countries still engage in globally. “Since we introduced the first of the temporary bans in August 2011, I’ve banned 33 separate substances, 51 or 52 different products and they keep being reformulated and reappearing,” New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told the New Zealand Herald, summarizing the revolving door of formulations that has kept the synthetic-drug business alive around the world

Now, however, the government is trying another approach. Rather than chasing after chemists but doing little to stop them from introducing new, unknown and potentially addictive products for uncontrolled human experimentation, New Zealand is proposing to regulate the drugs. Just as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was founded decades ago to prevent sales of adulterated and risky medical drugs, New Zealand will be the first country to create a similar approval process for new recreational drugs.

The new law, which is expected to be enacted in August, has generated worldwide interest. Companies will have to pay around $140,000 just to apply to have their products licensed and must spend an estimated $800,000 to $1.5 million to conduct clinical trials, which include human subjects, to prove their safety. Government-appointed scientists will judge the safety standards guiding these trials — but the law is not clear on whether the bar will be so high that most of the drugs will remain prohibited.

The law bans sales to youths under 18, advertising anywhere other than at the point of sale and requires that all ingredients be listed on the label, which must also include contact information for a poisoning hotline. The mandate for ingredients is crucial, since many synthetic drugs are made without safety or sterility standards and could contain toxic compounds, not to mention discarded drug candidates that have already been deemed unsafe for human use by the pharmaceutical companies that developed them. But whether companies will actually try to go through the approval process — and whether this will generate interest from Big Pharma to enter this potentially huge new market — remains to be seen.

(MORE: Should the FDA Regulate Recreational Drugs?)

Legalizing and regulating recreational drugs is obviously controversial. Would government approval signal an endorsement? The FDA recently approved its first cigarettes under new powers that give the agency authority to review the safety of certain tobacco products. While the FDA made clear that the approval only indicated that the cigarettes were no more dangerous than existing smokes on the market, critics fear that new types of tobacco products like “vaping” with e-cigarettes could reverse the current momentum toward eliminating smoking. If New Zealand starts to regulate and “approve” synthetic drugs, it could affect drug-use trends in unknown ways — even if the drugs it approves do turn out to carry fewer risks.

What is clear, however, is that outright prohibition has failed and that something needs to be done to address the conveyor belt of man-made products that are pouring into citizens worldwide, with no regulation and no oversight. Is New Zealand leading the way, or opening a Pandora’s box of new woes that will dwarf our current drug problem? History suggests that regulation reduces more harm than Prohibition.

113 comments
quando25
quando25

Drugs seem to be a big problem these days but I would also like to add that the amount of alcohol that is consumed by people is just as bad if not worse.  So I guess it is a matter of perspective.. Thanks for the great article...  http://healthysmiletoday.page.tl/

buzzreview
buzzreview

Illegal Drugs are the biggest problem in our society. I wonder what the general public has to say of this Drugs Legalization for recreational uses. Anyway, thank you for making this information available here. http://www.plasticsurgery-sydney.com.au

dianemgoldstein
dianemgoldstein

As both a speaker and Executive Board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition this article points out what I discuss each day. Notably that by not controlling the market as New Zealand proposes contributes to many of the bad outcomes resulting from bad policy. Clearly the discourse on the topics of our drug policy should not be on the drugs itself but whether the laws are effective. We should ask "are we safer because of our current policy" and are the costs of incarceration and enforcement justified?  My answer is no to both. Because of the black market we have chaos. It has contributed to policy displacement (drugs being tested versus rape kits, 1 example), geographical displacement ( stop in one location, drug dealer pops up in another), substance displacement ( the creation of synthetic drugs in particular), police corruption, the subversion of civil liberties as well as contributing to deaths of all those involved in using, procuring or enforcing the laws. Costs of drugs are at an all time low and purity is at an all time high. There has been literally no metric of success in the ongoing fight to eliminate drug use in society. So at what point do we become smart on crime by introducing harm reduction strategies, instead of just merely tough on crime which doesn't work. And as controversial as the subject maybe, I see a greater understanding by the the public of the nuances surrounding the conversation. Implementing a new policy is simply a failure of polictics not of resources.

Du4
Du4

I feel the need to clarify that I was referring to the comments below mine... 

Du4
Du4

Wow! This Mcclain72 fella needs to find a hobby.. Roll one up buddy, have a toke, and then try to tell me the world will go down the drain through legalization.. Grow up

Powder99
Powder99

To exile a person for life for first offence seems like exaggeration instead of reason to me. I am not sure where I exaggerated as if you are drunk and crank up the stereo too loud the police will show up. And then, unless I misread your statement, you'd suggest "exile for life." 

Perhaps the statement "shooting speeders on the spot" is what you believe is the exaggeration. Speeding is far more dangerous than a young man having few too many beers at home and cranking the stereo so I would assume the penalty should be far greater.

How you discipline your kids is pushing the limits so I apologize for that lapse of decency.

Anyway, it is too hot to argue. 

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

In Mexico, there has been an estimated 40,000 deaths attributed to the "Drug War". Our prisons are over flowing with drug offenders, and yet, drug treatment facilities are getting harder and harder to find. Methadone Clinics which are badly needed to combat addiction are shunned by the very communities that are infested with drug addiction. Until we treat drug addiction like we treat heart disease, cancer, and other health issues, the "War on Drugs" will continue to cost more lives around the world. Legalizing drugs is the only answer to stop the violence and needless bloodshed.

gemco
gemco

All drugs were legal in 1900's. You could buy them OTC in drug stores without a prescription, Then, there were no drug wars, no drug-related multiple murders with thousands being killed each year, and no crime-controlled organizations involved. But there was also no money in these drugs. So we made them illegal and it all changed, except for the numbers of people who use them. So we have given billions a year to gangsters for drugs  and billions a year to police organizations to clean it up and nothing has changed except the money involved. What a disgrace.

drudown
drudown

At this point, what, pray tell, is the foreseeable and realistic "risk" of the State imposing exceedingly thorough Executive regulation over a single recreational drug that unequivocally has a myriad of medicinal purposes, e.g., marijuana. The State should impose substantial taxes on both this newly created cash crop (i.e., at every level of manufacturing, distribution and sale) that are used to subsidize the erection of an unprecedented, mixed-use "living border" with Mexico and Canada in urban areas and completely control the jurisdiction of the United States once and for all. The ongoing stream of this multi-tiered tax system can easily justify the issuance of bonds and/or new investment vehicles that allow investment in specific projects that the GOP's suicidal policies (see, e.g., "no new taxes, ever") keep such change from ever moving forward. 

Here, given the enormous fiscal waste trying to control a desired good from entering the Market, perhaps the State should (no pun intended) "capitalize" on its own market's pecuniary upside for a change. You never know. We might actually raise revenue to improve our National Security, Defense and help protect natural resources. 

evoc
evoc

Yes, but not that crazy stuff that makes people eat people.

US1776
US1776

Prohibition has made a nightmare of the entire situation involving drugs use.

Prohibition does nothing but spawn black markets, criminal gangs, drug lords and horrendous levels of violence in addition to these new mimic drugs.

The best thing that the entire world could do is to legalize ALL drugs.

And take the money that was spent on trying to put drug users in jail, and instead spend that money (really only need a fraction) on drug rehabilitation and treatment programs for those that get addicted to HARD drugs.

SOFT drugs like marijuana should be completely legal worldwide as it was prior to 1934.

.

rbwphd
rbwphd

Legalize recreational drugs. Tax and regulate them. Put the dealers out of business. Stop wasting money on the DEA!

mrcatman9
mrcatman9

When organizations like LEAP advocate drug legalization,you have to pay attention.These are the thousands of police officers and sitting judges that have first hand experience with the drug culture: http://www.leap.cc/

rgmcclain72
rgmcclain72

Legalization on drugs for recreational use is probably one of the most idiotic ideas right next to socialized healthcare. I work in an industry where the mental faculties are vital. Marijuana has been proven to reduce mental alertness and where I work could result in loss productivity, injury or worse, loss of life. How in the hell would one determine recreational use? The problem is not the drugs, it is the idiots who believe they are better with them. Their work ethic is diminished. The quality of work is sub-par at best. The hippie mentality needs to go away. If we permit legalization, what drugs would be permitted? Marijuana, heroine, cocaine, LSD? People say that this would reduce the drug cartels power, but how about the lives that could be lost due to people operating motor vehicles? Apparently people forget that when under the influence and operating equipment, people including innocent bystanders are at risk. The death toll would skyrocket. 

themaeven
themaeven

The legalization of marajuana needs to happen.  Too many people, myself included, are in chronic pain, and it allows relief for a while.  If the government would legalize it, tax it, and allow access, I am convinced that we would accomplish  a huge tax benefit, which with out debt at 17 million dollars, we truly need.  Secondly. the Mexican cartels would loose millions in income.  And last, but certainly not least, those of us who hurt all the time will be able to function in a more normal fashion.  The War on Drugs is not working, it's merely adding to out overcrowded courts and prisons.  I can only hope that this eventually will change the current laws of the land.

FelixSinclair
FelixSinclair

As long as alcohol and cigarettes are legal, recreational drugs and prostitution should be also.

DougBond
DougBond

It is important that the U.S. legalize and regulate marijuana for the following reasons:  1. Take the distribution network away from dealers who have truly dangerous drugs available (with samples) for their customers (read: children).  This is the only reason marijuana is a "gateway drug". Those who are addictive in nature will obtain their fix no matter what and need therapy.  2. Stop the hemorrhage of dollars currently wasted in futile interdiction attempts. 3. Tax sales reasonably. 4.  Legalizing marijuana would put the synthetic dealers OUT OF BUSINESS! Synthetic cannabinoids are truly dangerous and people would not attempt to buy them if real marijuana was readily available.  I am not naive and realize there will be a "homegrown" black market.  Nevertheless it should be obvious that we are tremendously wasting our money and resources in this futile endeavor!

edlf
edlf

Legalize 'recreational' drugs?  Of course.  Considering the social direction we are now going, why not?  I am not up on these things, I presume cocaine is one of our 'recreational' drugs.  I am also a firm believer in human rights.  If one desires to ruin one's life one has that right.  If one desires to commit suicide one has that right.  If one does not desire to commit suicide one also has that right.

181113
181113

all drugs s/b legal.

Gregharris25
Gregharris25

If drugs were legalized the same people who use them now will use them post legalization, except they will no longer be criminals.

ZORRO13
ZORRO13

Really? ,Thought most were legal considering you have been able to get whatever,whenever you want for the last 40 years. Drug laws and the attempt to enforce them are a complete failure.

onepercenter
onepercenter

Yes, legalize them all. I suggest also making them available at no charge whatsoever. Use funeral homes as distribution centers. Have each "client" sign a release absolving the funeral home of all responsibility and giving the funeral home authority to properly dispose of their remains...just in the event the drugs do them in. This completely takes away the profit motive in the drug industry and gets the drug addicts off the streets...if you know what I mean.

casinolif3
casinolif3

Will never happen in the United States. The prison/legal system is making billions and providing a lot of jobs. It has nothing to do with what is ethical. Its all about money. USA

loveismyreligion
loveismyreligion

Isn't alcohol a recreational drug? And that drug hurts others with how it affects some people (i.e. violent drunks).  At least most of these other recreational drugs only hurt the one who is taking them. I say legalize.

blackcurry
blackcurry

Legalized drugs means more innocent people will be killed by people whose minds are warped from drugs.   There will be more addicted people who can't afford to pay for their escapes from reality who will be stealing and murdering for the money to finance their addictions.   This society is all ready on the was to extinction through moral decay.    We don't need to hasten our country's demise by accepting anything and everything people want to do.  There is no way to control drug addiction.

rahamilton1
rahamilton1

Legalize and tax ALL drugs. The two most deadly drugs are already legalized and taxed. The rest of them, put together, would never catch alcohol and tobacco for damage inflicted to our economy.

DaphneBlink
DaphneBlink

Prison is not the way to help addicts, but as an exwife of an addict, all legalization of meth would have done for my exhusband would have been to ruin our lives quicker and kill him quicker. My exhusband was addicted to meth from his first line at age 16. He woke up everyday trying to quit and he failed every day. He hated it, he struggled so hard.  He was mostly a functioning addict for the first 10 years we were married. I had no idea how bad his habit was at first because I never once saw him use, and he would go to work and eat and go to bed at night, but of course that couldn't last.  This isn't just about a person's private decision to do what they want to their own bodies. It is also unfortunately about the people who love the addict who have to deal with the everyday trauma of watching someone spiral out of control and become people they were never meant to be. It is about the loved ones who are lied to, abused, and stolen from. It is about the loved ones who fight everyday to take care of the medical issues that drug addicts go through, about having to pay for rehabs, of hospital bills and legal bills because of addicts breaking other laws then just being under the influence. Most people can't afford rehab, so sometimes jail is our only hope to keep an addict away from the drugs long enough for them to be able to see reason again and will hopefully jail will be a future deterrent. I have lost the most amazing man because of his addiction to meth. Due to his addiction to meth he has horrible teeth, he looks 20 years older than he is, he has one functioning lung, congestive heart failure, and pulmonary edema and his mental state is very poor. He is 43 and his life will be ending soon. His addiction to meth has also lead to an addiction to alcohol and gambling and prescription drugs, and also steroid use to try to hide his gaunt appearance.  He has no job and no insurance. He does not have the ability to quit. It has been 28 years of meth use. I spent 15 of them with him hoping every day that he would quit. Just about killed me. Making meth legal would have made everything worse.  Few people can use hard drugs recreationally, legalizing them will just cause a whole mess of other social problems.  Other countries that have legalized drugs have a better health care systems in place to help addicts when they need it, we don't have any real help for them unless they can afford insurance or rehab.  We aren't prepared as a county to legalize all so called recreational drugs.

amrak1000
amrak1000

No, they should not be legalized because once the addict is not satisfied with their "high", they won't just get up and quit, they will try harder drugs.  Then we have a problem...

chad2121
chad2121

The organizing principle of any society, is for war. The basic authority of a modern state of rich people resides in it's war powers. Today it's oil, tomorrow, water. It's what they like to call, the GOD business: Guns, Oil and Drugs, but theres a problem, our way of life is over, its unsustainable and in rapid decline. That's why they implement and demand destruction. They continue to make money, as the world burns. But for this to work, the people have to remain ignorant of the problem, until it's too late. That's why they have triggers in place: 9/11, 7/7 (7.7.2005 London Bombing), W.M.D's (Weapons of Mass Destruction). A population in a permanent state of fear, does not ask questions. Their desire for war, becomes its desire. A WILLING SACRIFICE. You see? Fear is justification, fear is control, fear... is money.

allenwoll
allenwoll

Anyone who requires the attention of the police (DUI, Domestic Abuse, Disturb Peace, etc) on account of his indulgence in any drug, including alcohol, should be permanently removed from society and placed in a camp (limited freedom in a rural setting) where he must work to care for himself : Near-zero cost to taxpayers. . Should he escape, he should then be remanded to a conventional prison.

thevisionmachine.com
thevisionmachine.com

Regulating recreational drugs is the sign of an intelligent society. It will put tax dollars in the state coffers rather than relying on taxation of weapons of war. A regulated drug society (which in effect is what we have with Big Pharma) would mean a safer society.

MalcolmKyle
MalcolmKyle

Prohibition has finally run its course; the lives and livelihoods of hundred's of millions of people worldwide have been destroyed or severely disrupted; many countries that were once shining beacons of liberty and prosperity have become toxic, repressive, smoldering heaps of hypocrisy and a gross affront to fundamental human decency. It is now the duty of every last one of us to insure that the people who are responsible for this shameful situation are not simply left in peace to enjoy the wealth and status that their despicable actions have, until now, afforded them. Former and present Prohibitionists must not be allowed to remain untainted or untouched by the unconscionable acts that they have viciously committed on their fellow human beings. They have provided us with neither safe communities nor safe streets. We will provide them with neither a safe haven to enjoy their ill-gotten gains nor the liberty to repeat such a similar atrocity.

Prohibition has (again) evolved local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, helping them control vast swaths of territory while gifting them with significant social and military resources.

Those responsible for this shameful policy—parasitic prohibitionists—should not go unpunished!

MikeParent
MikeParent

"Is Regulating Recreational Drugs the Answer?"  And the answer is....YES!

JackDraak
JackDraak

The Drug War is Dead. Long live the Drug War.

TomSpeed
TomSpeed

Meanwhile.... Google 'Cannabis seed bank'.

The situation is an utter joke! Gov. get to ignore what's actually going on in the world.

How can the U.N. continue to justify its stance given that some States of arguably its leading member, the U.S., have 'legalized' recreational use.

The situation is untenable.

Responsible Cannabis users are just fine, and want to be left alone.

No one wants to see people get hooked on heroin, crack, meth, and other genuinely addictive substances, but, I'm positive if each individual were asked, they'd NOT wish to see a user of such drugs imprisoned simply because they use them.

Seriously, if a Political Canvasser told the truth up front at your doorstep....

'So Sir... please vote for our Politicial Party, and we'll put you, your children, your parents, your brothers & sisters, other family & friends.. in PRISON, if they use a substance *WE* deem to be harmful.'


<DOOR SLAM>


HELLLLLLLO? :)

http://www.lysanderspooner.org/VicesAreNotCrimes.htm