America’s ‘new’ global anti-drug plan embraces old-school eradication policies

America’s ‘new’ global anti-drug plan embraces old-school eradication policies

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Presdient Trump presides over a U.S.-hosted event on countering the global drug crisis. September 24, 2018. UN Photo/Mark Garten.
Presdient Trump presides over a U.S.-hosted event on countering the global drug crisis. September 24, 2018. UN Photo/Mark Garten.

A new US anti-drug plan swings momentum back to prohibitionist policies after countries signaled an embrace of alternate approaches at a key 2016 summit.

UNITED NATIONS — President Trump kicked off a busy week at the U.N. on Monday, hosting a meeting on the “world drug problem.”

The U.S.-sponsored event was invite-only, and to earn a spot in the room, countries needed to sign on to a four-part American drug strategy known as the “Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem.”

Donald Trump used his remarks to summarize the plan:

The call is simple: reduce drug demand; cut off the supply of illicit drugs; expand treatment; and strengthen international cooperation. If we take these steps together, we can save the lives of countless people in all corners of the world.”

Trump offered few details, but he did praise Colombian President Ivan Duque, and in so doing hinted at the kinds of drug policies the U.S. now supports.

“Newly-elected President Duque, Colombia, campaigned on an anti-drug platform, and won a very, very impressive victory. Congratulations. We look forward to partnering with his new administration to eradicate coca production in his country. All of us must work together to dismantle drug production and defeat drug addiction.”

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“I think that statement for today from the U.S. administration is quite deceptively worded.”

Helen Clark is the former prime minister of New Zealand and now helps steer the nonprofit Global Commission on Drug Policy.

“When you come down to its key elements, it is about the same old approach: prohibition  eliminate the trade in drugs. At the Global Commission we deal with reality. And the reality is that what works best is the decriminalization in countries like Portugal, plus having a regulation around drugs.”

The U.S. says 129 countries support the new drug compact. Some, like Canada, which will legalize marijuana nationwide next month, likely did so to keep the peace with Trump amid contentious trade talks. Other backers, like China and Saudi Arabia, sentence drug users to death.

And while no dissenting voices were in the room to formally critique the American drug policy, U.N. Secretary-General and former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres seemed to praise his country’s decision in 2001 to decriminalize all drugs and redirect law enforcement spending toward treatment.

“Drugs addicts are victims who need treatment, rather than punishment.”

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