Drug Policy

The U.N.'s 10-Year Plan to Eradicate Drugs: How'd That Go?

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In 1998 Pino Arlacchi, executive director of the U.N. Drug Control Program, declared: "Global coca leaf and opium poppy acreage totals an area less than half the size of Puerto Rico. There is no reason it cannot be eliminated in little more than a decade." How's that going? Today Antonio Maria Costa, Arlacchi's successor at what is now the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), issued a 314-page report that takes stock of what was accomplished during the U.N. Decade Against Drug Abuse. Among other things, estimated global production of opium more than doubled, from 4,346 metric tons in 1998 to 8,890 in 2007. During the same period estimated cocaine production rose from 825 to 994 metric tons. But don't be discouraged, Costa says; a century after the dawn of international drug control efforts, we're about to turn the corner.

For some reason, Costa notes in the UNODC report's preface, "there has been a limited but growing chorus among politicians, the press, and even in public opinion saying: drug control is not working." He worries that "the broadcasting volume is still rising and the message spreading." Hence he feels a need to conspicuously refute the anti-prohibitionists once and for all. Declaring that "the repeal debate" is "characterized by sweeping generalizations and simplistic solutions," he counters them with sophisticated arguments like these:

1. "Are the partisans of this cause also in favour of legalizing and taxing other seemingly intractable crimes like human trafficking?…Don't make wicked transactions legal just because they are hard to control."

2. "Drugs are not harmful because they are controlled—they are controlled because they are harmful."

3. "There cannot be exchanges, no quid-pro-quos, when health and security are at stake."

4. If the government allows adults to decide for themselves which intoxicants they want to consume, it will "end up violating somebody's human rights." Specifically, "the right to health of drug addicts," which demands that they be "assisted" to stop doing what they want to do.

5. While it's true that "drug controls have generated a criminal market of macro-economic dimensions that uses violence and corruption to mediate between demand and supply," the solution is not to repeal prohibition but to say "no to crime" as well as "no to drugs." 

The shocking (and encouraging) thing is that Costa, an economist with a Ph.D. from U.C.-Berkeley, is a pretty smart guy (though not quite as smart as he thinks he is). The fact that he ends up mouthing the same sort of non sequiturs, unsupported generalizations, obvious falsehoods, Orwellian redefinitions, and empty platitudes that you hear from the average ex-DEA bureaucrat is yet another sign that drug warriors are intellectually bankrupt.

But reformers shouldn't get cocky. Costa offers another good example of how prohibitionists use the language of medicine and public health, so popular among critics of the war on drugs, to shore up their position:

I appeal to the heroic partisans of the human rights cause worldwide, to help UNODC promote the right to health of drug addicts: they must be assisted and reintegrated into society. Addiction is a health condition and those affected by it should not be imprisoned, shot-at or, as suggested by the proponent of this argument [against prohibiton], traded-off in order to reduce the security threat posed by international mafias….People who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution. Attention must be devoted to heavy drug users. They consume the most drugs, cause the greatest harm to themselves and society—and generate the most income to drug mafias. Drug courts and medical assistance are more likely to build healthier and safer societies than incarceration.

And what happens to the government-identified addicts who don't want to be "assisted," who turn down "medical help" and spurn the "attention" of crusading paternalists like Costa? Are they free to go about their business, or will help be forced upon them? Since Costa equates drug use with slavery, you can guess the answer; these poor bastards will be emancipated, whether they like it or not.

The UNODC report is available here. In 2007 I described Costa's appearance at the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform.

[Thanks to Tom Angell at LEAP for the tip.]

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  1. Are the partisans of this cause also in favour of legalizing and taxing other seemingly intractable crimes like human trafficking?

    No.

    Drugs are not harmful because they are controlled-they are controlled because they are harmful.

    Fails to distinguish between the harm caused by black markets, a direct product of prohibition, and harm caused by drug use.

    There cannot be exchanges, no quid-pro-quos, when health and security are at stake.

    How does drug use threaten security? Isn’t he asking us to make for a quid-pro-quo exchange of freedom and civil rights for “health”?

    The shocking (and encouraging) thing is that Costa, an economist with a Ph.D. from U.C.-Berkeley, is a pretty smart guy

    I see no evidence for that.

  2. Don’t care that this is wildly off-topic, but sweet Jesus, the US just beat Spain 2-0!

    Amazing!

  3. What plan has the U.N. had that has worked in any measurable sense? Aside from putting bandaids on problems in the form of relief.

  4. “The U.N.’s 10-Year Plan to Eradicate Drugs: How’d That Go?”

    If I’m not mistaken, they eradicated drugs.

  5. Like the old JBS billboard said:

    Get US out of the United Nations!

  6. I’m proud of my individual efforts that I have exerted to undermine the UN objectives.

    I will continue the fight against the UN’s nannyist objectives by any and all means available.

    I hope you will join me in this struggle.

  7. Gotta love that old, tried-and-true logic: If something isn’t working, we’re just not doing ENOUGH of it.

  8. “””Declaring that “the repeal debate” is “characterized by sweeping generalizations and simplistic solutions,””””

    Humm, it wrong for others, but ok for him. How par.

  9. Don’t make wicked transactions legal just because they are hard to control.

    But the people involved in the transactions don’t think they’re wicked. That’s the whole point.

    Specifically, “the right to health of drug addicts,” which demands that they be “assisted” to stop doing what they want to do.

    Right, because going to prison enhances your health.

    Sorry, but if you’re going to claim that the drug war is a benefit to drug users because it “assists” them, then you have to show me that the assistance they gain outweighs what is lost via incarceration. And you just can’t do that.

  10. Acts of resistance can be as simple as supporting the black market in your area, producing your own stash, or introducing your friends to the joys of drugs.

    Help make the “War on Drugs” even more of an utter and abject failure.

    Will you join us?

  11. “The shocking (and encouraging) thing is that Costa, an economist with a Ph.D. from U.C.-Berkeley, is a pretty smart guy”

    Every damned word quoted disproves any such contention. His job depends on the continued black market and all the violence and destruction that it causes. He insists on that market because without it, he’s out personal profit. He’s just defending his share.

  12. Are the partisans of this cause also in favour of legalizing and taxing other seemingly intractable crimes like __________?…Don’t make wicked transactions legal just because they are hard to control.

    There are so many legal things more dangerous than the majority of illegal drugs that could be put there. Where to begin?

    Drugs are not harmful because they are controlled-they are controlled because they are harmful.

    See: Your own point #5.

    There cannot be exchanges, no quid-pro-quos, when health and security are at stake.

    This guy can pry bacon from my cold, dead fork.

    If the government allows adults to decide for themselves which intoxicants they want to consume…

    This guy can pry caffeine from my cold, dead mug.

    the solution is not to repeal prohibition but to say “no to crime”

    Wow, why has no one thought of this before? If we make crime illegal, people will stop doing it.

  13. “Today Antonio Maria Costa, Arlacchi’s successor at what is now the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), issued a 314-page report …”

    “The shocking (and encouraging) thing is that Costa, an economist with a Ph.D. from U.C.-Berkeley, is a pretty smart guy ”

    Bullshit. That “pretty smart guy” had to waste 314 pages to say “We failed.”

  14. I agree with R C Dean.

    Costa apparently *meant* to say “There cannot be exchanges, no quid-pro-quos, when health, security, freedom, and civil rights are at stake.”

  15. As with most prohibitionist bullshit, this does not make a distinction between hard core addicts and casual users. But I think it’s interesting to note, that the drug of choice with heroin addicts is becoming oxy Contin. Is the UN going after the pharmaceutical companies next? Why fuck with all the bullshit of street trash drugs like this new Meth (I say new because I’m an old phenylacetate person) when you can go to a doctor and say you’re having trouble concentrating and get a prescription of Adderall? And if you really twist his arm, you might get lucky and get Desoxyn. But Oxy and Desoxyn are OK. It’s those damned Quaaludes! To this day, a friend of mine still curses Reagan for banning the Quaalude.

  16. It’s refreshing to see “hard core addicts” and “drug of choice” in the essay.

  17. Rephrasing: It’s refreshing to see “hard core addicts” and “drug of *choice*” mentioned in the same essay. Need more caffeine, I guess …

  18. Ahhh, public officials ending their grand public plans with “I mean, how hard can it be?”

    Always doomed to epic fail.

  19. My favorite, by far, is #5. “Say no to crime”. ROFL!!!

  20. Don’t make wicked transactions legal just because they are hard to control.

    They aren’t WICKED until you outlaw them and label them as such.

    WTF kind of circular logic is this?

  21. say “no to crime” as well as “no to drugs.”

    I said no, but criminals just don’t listen. Why is that? Hmm. This say “no to crime” thing is trickier than I thought.

  22. If the government allows adults to decide for themselves which intoxicants they want to consume, it will “end up violating somebody’s human rights.”

    So by this logic, alchol, tobacco, fatty foods…all of those things adults shouldn’t have the right to decide for themseleves to consume.

    Specifically, “the right to health of drug addicts,” which demands that they be “assisted” to stop doing what they want to do.

    Someone needs to explain to this guy how “rights” work. Having a right means having the ability to exercise that right if I so choose. It doesn’t mean being FORCED to exercise that right against my will.

    Having the RIGHT to vote doesn’t mean we should outlaw non-voting. Having the right to a healthy life doesn’t mean I have to be forced to have a healthy life.

    What an ass.

  23. If the government allows adults to decide for themselves which intoxicants they want to consume, it will “end up violating somebody’s human rights.” Specifically, “the right to health of drug addicts,” which demands that they be “assisted” to stop doing what they want to do.

    Sorry for harping on this comment, but its so fucking absurd.

    Is he implying that I can violate my own rights by making “improper” decisions/choices ?

  24. Acts of resistance can be as simple as supporting the black market in your area, producing your own stash, or introducing your friends to the joys of drugs.

    Help make the “War on Drugs” even more of an utter and abject failure.

    Will you join us?

    I’m with ya! Doing my part to support the coca leaf growers. Just bought a ball for a party this weekend and will try my best to spread the joy by introducing it to any women there.

  25. “If the government allows adults to decide for themselves which intoxicants they want to consume, it will “end up violating somebody’s human rights.””

    Bees are on the what now?

  26. 3 words: Fuck The UN

    It may be called the UN because it un-Nazied the world (according to Idiocracy), but we need to un-UN the world. What a worthless and counterproductive organization.

  27. So some guy whose job is dependent on keeping drugs illegal writes a 300+ page report on why we should keep drugs illegal? YAWN… call me when there’s a story.

  28. Does burning marijuana plants count as “drug eradication”? If so, I know some co-workers who eradicate drugs twice a day. Do your part, I guess.

  29. The program was a huge success at its actual goal, which was to transfer huge sums of taxpayers’ money to UN bureaucrats. It was never about making a dent in drug use.

    -jcr

  30. Was it just me or did someone else pick up the massive contradiction underlying the WDR’s main argument for continued prohibition? In section 2.1 of the report, the UNODC crowd pretty much concedes that a legalize-tax-and-regulate framework would work…but only in developed countries. Developing countries are thought unable to impose meaningful taxes and regulations on a legal drug industry, and therefore, would see their consumption levels explode. Thus, global prohibition must continue for the sake of poor countries (the condescencion is almost unbearable).
    Yet those same developing countries are expected to, simultaneously,: a) succesfully interdict supply; b) reform police forces and judicial systems; c)fight corruption in the face of massive illegal profits; d)address the problem of slums and dereliction in cities; e) close open drug-markets; e)provide universal access to drug treatment; etc. etc. If the governments of developing countries are considered too weak to tax and regulate small national drug markets, why would anyone think them capable of performing that daunting list of tasks? The contradiction is so glaring that my eyes hurt.

  31. Someone needs to explain to this guy how “rights” work. Having a right means having the ability to exercise that right if I so choose. It doesn’t mean being FORCED to exercise that right against my will.

    Dude, you cannot be allowed to interfer with your right to be a healthy, obediant, productive servant to the state/society. That is the nanny-fuckers definition of a “right”. Since this ass-licker got a PhD from Berserkely the only way you could impart this lesson to him in a meaningful and lasting way is via a 2×4.

  32. Great post and great comment thread. I’m still waiting to be impressed by a prohibitionist argument.

  33. Just download it and dang, an entire report against something that doesn’t mention carbon or global warming as a negative. That’s refreshing.

  34. I would also really like to hear one good argument for prohibition. I’ve never heard one either. It’s very scary that ALL of the governments in the world can accept a policy that destroys the lives of millions, yet nobody can give a decent argument for doing so.

    Is it just me or is prohibition a vast, ridiculous, evil conspiracy???

  35. BeesInTheBrain | June 25, 2009, 2:02am | #

    The funny thing is, the Int’l WoD probably has a huge carbon footprint. 😀

    Is it just me or is prohibition a vast, ridiculous, evil conspiracy???

    It often seems like that to me, too.

  36. I appeal to the heroic partisans of the human rights cause worldwide, to help UNODC promote the right to health of drug addicts: they must be assisted and reintegrated into society. Addiction is a health condition and those affected by it should not be imprisoned, shot-at or, as suggested by the proponent of this argument [against prohibiton], traded-off in order to reduce the security threat posed by international mafias….People who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution. Attention must be devoted to heavy drug users. They consume the most drugs, cause the greatest harm to themselves and society-and generate the most income to drug mafias. Drug courts and medical assistance are more likely to build healthier and safer societies than incarceration.

    And what happens to the government-identified addicts who don’t want to be “assisted,” who turn down “medical help” and spurn the “attention” of crusading paternalists like Costa? Are they free to go about their business, or will help be forced upon them?

    “Drug addiction” is listed as a “mental illness” in the DSM IV. My county sends drug addicts to a psych ward with a lock on the door to keep them from escaping. The hospital must have a judge review your case in 72 hours, but you are not allowed to be present for that hearing. After about three weeks, you get a second hearing that you are actually allowed to attend. The hearing is not open to the public, allegedly to keep you from being embarassed should the public learn what happens in those hearings. The hearing is about a medical condition, not a crime, so you don’t get the protections offered to people accused of a crime. There’s no 5th amendment right to be silent. You don’t get to see the doctor’s evidence ahead of time. There is so set time limit on how long you can be detained.

  37. A drug free world, we can do it!

  38. To show the absurdity and hypocracy…

    1. “Are the partisans of this cause also in favour of legalizing and taxing other seemingly intractable crimes like alcohol?…Don’t make wicked transactions legal just because they are hard to control.”

    2. “Alcohol is not harmful because it is controlled, it is controlled because it is harmful.”

    3. “There cannot be exchanges, no quid-pro-quos, when health and security are at stake.”

    4. If the government allows adults to decide for themselves whether to use alcohol, it will “end up violating somebody’s human rights.” Specifically, “the right to health of the person to be alcohol free” which demands that they be “assisted” to stop doing what they want to do.

    5. While it’s true that “alcohol controls have generated a criminal market of macro-economic dimensions that uses violence and corruption to mediate between demand and supply,” the solution is not to repeal alcohol prohibition but to say “no to crime” as well as “no to alcohol.”

  39. Someone needs to explain to this guy how “rights” work. Having a right means having the ability to exercise that right if I so choose. It doesn’t mean being FORCED to exercise that right against my will.

    Nicely put, ChicagoTom. As the Fourth Iron Law states:

    4. You aren’t free unless you are free to be wrong.


  40. 4. You aren’t free unless you are free to be wrong.

    Wrong, Freedom is Drug Free!

    A drug free world, we can do it!

    J

  41. Ah yes yet another all knowing pinhead with a Ph.D. from what is supposed to be one of the best colleges in the country talking shit that only another pinhead would even begin to agree with.

    When will this country stop giving so much credit to people simply for going to X, Y or Z college? Are not most of the people in DC also alums from these highly prestigious and IVY league schools as well? Seems to me they are hardly turning out the cream of the crop if the current state of affairs our country is in is any indicator of their intelligence and superior mental conginitive abilities. These are nothing more than affirmative action schools mixed with good old boy mentality and family ties that get people into them. The school has nothing to do with the intelligence of the individual. Just because you went to some over priced college where you paid way to much for your education does not make you any smarter than anyone else. Or does the 15 trillion in Fed debt alone not demonstrate this out all to well that these people don’t know shit!

  42. Wrong, Freedom is free drugs

    …get it right 😉

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