Has the anti-drug policy failed?

The main policy of governments to counteract the illicit drug trafficking has been prohibition. Has it worked?

Has the anti-drug policy failed?

The historical relationship of many countries in Latin America with illicit drugs has been very close. Beyond being substances used for ancestral practices, these have been the mechanism of various drug trafficking groups to establish, thanks to the resources generated by their economy, controlled territories where different phenomena converge, such as violence, arms trafficking, human trafficking, kidnappings, etc.

Leer en español: ¿Ha fracasado la política antidrogas?

Drug trafficking has existed in the region for a long time. The violent history of many of the countries of Latin America, often distorted by telenovelas or TV series around the world, has its origin in the phenomenon of drug trafficking, which for the States has been impossible to suppress, despite any individual or collective effort.

The main policy of governments to counteract illicit drug trafficking has been the prohibition, translated into the current fight against drugs, promoted since the mid-twentieth century. Based on this, governments have reached agreements throughout history to counteract the cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of unregulated substances.

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One of the strategies with more validity and more recognized at a global level is that which was approved in the "Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation in favor of a comprehensive and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem", proposed at the UN since 2009 with a 10-year vision for compliance. It proposes a set of mechanisms to eliminate or reduce the entire chain of substances under international control, diversion of precursors (legal substances that serve as a basis for the production of narcotics) or money laundering.

Shortly after completing the implementation of the plan, the International Consortium on Drug Policy (IDPC) has carried out an evaluation of this strategy embodied in its report "Balance of a decade of drug policies - Shadow Report of civil society", contrasted the objectives of the same with the results obtained one year before its culmination:

Objective 1: Eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably "The illicit cultivation of opium poppy, coca bush, and cannabis plant". Result: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reveals, according to its data, that the cultivation of opium, coca and cannabis has not been reduced at all, but that, on the contrary, opium poppy cultivation has increased to 130%, 34% in the coca bush and 145 countries were reported with cannabis plantings, in which no cases of reduction are shown.

Objective 2: Eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably "The illicit demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and the health and social risks related to drugs". Result: In 2016 it is estimated that 275 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 have used drugs, a figure that shows an increase of 31% compared to the figures of 2011. Among the most consumed are cannabis, opioids, and amphetamines. On the other hand, the number of drug-related deaths has skyrocketed by 145% compared to 2011 (183,500 deaths) and 2015 (450,000).

Objective 3: Eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably "The illicit production, manufacture, marketing, distribution and trafficking of psychotropic substances, including synthetic drugs". Result: According to UN data, amphetamine production is maintained worldwide, with growing markets in North and West Africa, North America, East, and Southeast Asia, and Oceania. It is also reported that around 800 new substances appeared between 2009 and 2017 and that the illicit use of prescription drugs has reached unprecedented levels in several regions, especially in North America.

Objective 4: Eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably "The diversion and illicit trafficking of precursors". Result: The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) reported an increase in the use and number of precursors in illicit drug production. An example of this is that although the quantity seized of potassium permanganate (used in the production of cocaine) increased from 92,702 kilos in 2012 to 585,072 kilos in 2016, cocaine production in the world has increased by 44% since 2009

Objective 5: Eliminate or reduce considerably and measurably "Money laundering related to illicit drugs". Result: It is estimated that each year the amount of money between 800 million and 2 trillion US dollars is whitening worldwide, representing 2% and 5% of the global GDP. Also that the world drug market reaches a volume between 426,000 and 652,000 million US dollars, of which more than half of the gross profits generated are channeled towards money laundering, managing to confiscate less than 1% of this money.

It also reveals figures such as 3,940 people have been executed for drug crimes during the last decade, that one in five people in prison have been deprived of liberty for drug offenses, that only 17% of the crypto markets of drugs close by police intervention, that the war against drugs in Mexico, started in 2006, has left more than 150,000 and 32,000 people disappeared and that in Colombia the forced eradication from 2009 to 2016 caused the increase of 115% of coca crops in the country, proportional to the increase in social conflict and forced internal displacement.

In general, what the results of the strategy proposed several decades ago, and condensed in the plan designed in 2009 at the UN, translate is that we are not on the right track. It seems that most of these policies have been counterproductive, increasing the numbers negatively.

Therefore, governments should reevaluate what they want with the objectives set almost ten years ago, taking into account the reality of many countries and understanding the true logic of the chain of "substances under international control". All this to begin to improve the situation of the rights of the most marginalized and vulnerable people and communities in the world.

LatinAmerican Post | Juan Sebastián Salguero Bernal

Translated from "¿Ha fracasado la política antidrogas?"

* The opinion of the editor does not represent the average

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