Did the United Nations Just Call for the Decriminalization of All Drugs?

UN-CannabisBy Carey Wedler

News circulated Monday morning that the United Nations had officially called for the decriminalization of all drugs in a brief, two-page report. Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, hinted on Sunday that the announcement would be made, but by Monday morning, the U.N. announced it had no such intention and that the document merely reflected the author’s opinion. Even so, the BBC and Branson himself suggest the document was withdrawn following resistance from at least one country.

As Richard Branson wrote in a blog post before the official release of the report:


In an as-yet unreleased statement circulated to the BBC, myself and others, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which has shaped much of global drug policy for decades, call on governments around the world to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption for all drugs.

The report was to be released at an international harm reduction conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Branson continued:

It’s exciting that the UNODC has now unequivocally stated that criminalisation is harmful, unnecessary and disproportionate, echoing concerns about the immense human and economic costs of current drug policies voiced earlier by UNAIDS, the World Health Organisation, UNDP, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, Kofi Annan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

However, Branson, a long-time opponent of the Drug War, wrote that as he drafted his blog post, the briefing had already drawn harsh opposition. “But as I’m writing this,” he said, “I am hearing that at least one government is putting an inordinate amount of pressure on the UNODC.”

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He concluded:

Let us hope the UNODC, a global organisation that is part of the UN and supposed to do what is right for the people of the world, does not do a remarkable volte-face at the last possible moment and bow to pressure by not going ahead with this important move.

By Monday, the U.N. had disputed Branson’s announcement of the document. “The briefing paper on decriminalisation mentioned in many of today’s media reports, and intended for dissemination and discussion at a conference in Kuala Lumpur, is neither a final nor formal document … and cannot be read as a statement of UNODC policy,” a spokesperson announced.

As the Guardian summarized:

United Nations sources stressed that the briefing paper did not mark a major change in UN policy. They pointed out that such a historic shift would not have been announced at another organisation’s conference and would have had to gone through its policymaking process first.

Regardless, the disputed two-page document was penned by Dr. Monica Beg, who chairs the HIV/AIDs section of the UNODC. She noted multiple consequences of the continued War on Drugs, including excessive imprisonment. “[W]orldwide, millions of people are imprisoned for minor, non-violent drug offences,” she wrote, suggesting that “arrest and incarceration are disproportionate measures.“

While the document acknowledges that governments have a duty under international law to reduce the supply and trade of drugs, it also affirms that these governments are responsible for adhering to human rights obligations. The document concludes that the U.N. will not force member states to criminalize drug possession and use on a personal scale. Rather, it suggests that “Member states should consider the implementation of measures to promote the right to health and to reduce prison overcrowding, including by decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal use.”

This type of policy has seen success in Portugal, where drugs were decriminalized in 2001 and rates of use decreased. At least one town in Massachusetts has opted to treat addiction to heroin rather than prosecute it.

The paper suggests several strategies like these, including investing in drug-prevention programs and treatment for drug dependency. It makes clear that it advocates decriminalization, in part, “as a key element of the HIV response among people who use drugs.”

In spite of the groundbreaking implications of the two-page document, the U.N. maintains the document was meant only as a suggestion (the BBC notes that the UNODC has been under increased pressure to take a stance). The language of the conclusion implies the document was a suggestion, considering it urges that member countries “should consider” decriminalization.

However, the text of the document, printed on official agency stationery, also says the report “clarifies the position of UNODC to inform country responses to promote a health and human rights approach to drug policy,” making the UNODC’s true intentions difficult to decipher.

Denials from the U.N. were swift and vehement. Official statements also denied Branson’s claims that at least one member nation pushed back against the recommendations:

“[The document] remains under review and UNODC regrets that, on this occasion, there has been an unfortunate misunderstanding about the nature and intent of this briefing paper. UNODC emphatically denies reports that there has been pressure on UNODC to withdraw the document. But it is not possible to withdraw what is not yet ready,” an official U.N. response said.

Regardless of whether or not the document was intended to be one person’s suggestion or an officially proposed policy — or whether countries are exerting undue pressure on the U.N. following its release — the mere suggestion of decriminalizing drugs, in and of itself, reflects the changing landscape of drug prohibition.

This article (Did the United Nations Just Call for the Decriminalization of All Drugs?) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email [email protected].


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9 Comments on "Did the United Nations Just Call for the Decriminalization of All Drugs?"

  1. Exactly, perfect reasoning and the bonus is a lot more people will likely be in semi-conscious drug altered states offering little or no resistance to whatever policies are rolled out. The first strong clue this was coming was Soros financially backing state initiatives legalizing marijuana.

    • I DID NOT KNOW about Soros funding/backing legalization. Thanks for that tidbit, and the support. This has been on my mind since all the rumblings about an all-digital currency, and I’ve not seen anyone mention how this would affect the (currently) illicit drug trade, so I’m glad at least one person agrees.

  2. Interesting, there is a big push to make the UN look like a good global nanny. The WHO report on the carcinogenity of glyphosate (RoundUp) must be part of the same tactic, as is the Establishment increasingly working to portray the US as a rapacious and rogue hegemon, a role the Establishment created and directed.

    • I read somewhere the US is being set up as the bungling villain of the world. Much more to it- I’ll have to try find the link. Unfamiliar with the author but in that piece he went thru some predictions he made going back to 2010 and he was spot on with a bunch of things. Wish I had a link and more than a vague recollection, I’ll come back if I find it.

      • This has been the pattern of civilization. Create an empire, build up a new culture to defeat the evil empire and destroy the remnants of the old culture to the extent that the vast majority never wakes up. Goes back to at least ancient Sumer, which was overthrown by Sargon of Accade.

        • Interesting I’ll have to read about Sumer and Sargon. Sounds like a Tolkein novel. But seriously I love ancient history so I’m gonna check it out. I think America may set the record for fastest rise and fall of any empire, the fall part for sure and by a time span measured in centuries. Assuming it falls. My fear is that rather than fall gracefully, or even somewhat DIS-gracefully, we’ll launch the nukes and take the whole planet down with us.

  3. The last thing they would want in a cashless society is a free market for drugs. The purpose of going cashless is control. They want all electronic transactions, and a free drug market would undermine that. Legalization will occur because they can not afford to have people disregarding the laws. the war on drugs was lost long ago. Marijuana has been the number one cash crop for several decades now. It’s not being taxed and the medical industry has been left out of the loop as well. With Oregon and Washington state having legalized, California should be next. Especially if the politicians try to raise taxes because of any economic shortfall.

    Your assertion that there would be no illicit drug trade in a cashless society is wrong. First, marijuana would become the new currency. Second, black markets are always at least partially cashless. go you think the drug dealers never trade for carsof guns or something other than cash? Cigarettes became the defacto currency during the Weimar Republic. Around 100 million have dropped out of the corporate workforce. There is a huge cultural change coming, and the controllers are barely hanging on.

    • I’m not saying black markets would disappear completely- sure, trading would have to replace cash transactions in this scenario, but as far as the illegal drug trade in its current form- that’s a major source of revenue for black ops, and banks just love those multi billions in cartel money they get to launder and keep as liquid reserves. Rumor has it that cartel money was the only real liquidity in the banking system during the ’08 crash. You think those people banks and intelligence agencies, the dirtiest f*ckers in the planet- are just going to give all that profit up? And that trading items for drugs, or paying for items with weed is a viable alternative? Really? TPTB will just control and profit off a legal system. Also, trading items for drugs is a tiny, tiny fraction of the trade that takes place mainly on the local dealer level I would think. Maybe some big transactions involving large amounts of guns, but you CAN’T HAVE an illegal drug trade anywhere close to its current form without cash. Impossible. Can’t happen, no way. Your not thinking it through.

  4. I wasn’t being condescending for one, for another, it’s not something I’m gonna argue to death along every f*cking fine detail, half of which are hypothetical and the rest of which I don’t care enough to get into further anyway. You have your opinion. I disagree with most of what you say, you disagree with everything I say, whatever, my original comment was just a “here’s what I think” thing that’s a hypothesis for a hypothetical future situation. Moving on, this is going down a pointless path.

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