By Nick Clegg for The Independent. On 19th April next year, the countries of the United Nations will meet in special session in New York to debate the future of global drugs policy. The starting gun on government negotiations for the summit was fired last week at a meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.
The last time one of these important events took place, in 1998, the proceedings were dominated by a US administration still deeply committed to the so-called ‘war on drugs’, the brainchild of Richard Nixon in 1971. In what now feels like an act of collective wishful thinking, the assembled member states solemnly committed themselves to the goal of “a drug-free world by 2008”.
Unsurprisingly, 2008 came and went. Instead of eradicating the production, supply and consumption of illicit drugs from the planet, the trade continues to thrive, raking in billions for organised crime. Well-meaning law enforcement efforts have had little if any long-term impact on supply. Violence in source and transit countries has soared (in Mexico alone, an estimated 100,000 people have died in the war on the cartels since 2006). All around the world, millions of people who use drugs continue to be prosecuted and imprisoned, wrecking lives and offering little if any deterrent to drug taking.
We are, without a doubt, losing the war on drugs.