UN Drugs Chief Rejects Volker Body’s Marijuana Findings

The top drug official at the United Nations rejected the findings of an international panel urging countries to reassess prohibition by experimenting with decriminalization and regulation of illicit substances.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy’s recommendations, released last month, would risk undermining global narcotics treaties, said Yury Fedotov, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The commission was set up in 2011 with former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on its board.

“It’s very hard to reconcile these recommendations with the major provisions of drug-control conventions,” Fedotov told reporters in Vienna today. “Such experiments certainly will make drugs more available and cheaper.”

UN drug-control treaties are being challenged by citizen initiatives seeking their repeal. In the U.S., Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana while a score of other states have legislated its use for medical purposes. In South America, Uruguay last year became the first country to make pot possession legal, and the Organization of American States was divided last month over the issue of drug control.

“The international drug-control regime is broken,” former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said in the Global Commission’s 45-page report. “We recognize that past approaches premised on a punitive law-enforcement paradigm have failed, emphatically so.”

To stop organized-crime from controlling the drug market, the commission suggested that states experiment with regulating marijuana, coca leaves and some “psychoactive substances.”

While the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, with an annual budget of about $580 million, also supports more palliative efforts aimed at drug addicts, wholesale changes could be dangerous, according to Fedotov, a former Russian diplomat who joined the UN in 2010.

“It means that we may face increased consumption of psychoactive substances which may result in more death and more suffering,” Fedotov said.

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