Illegal drug classifications based on politics not science

Illegal drug classifications are based on politics not science – report | Global development | The GuardianKaren McVeigh – @karenmcveighJun 2019 

Illegal drugs including cocaine, heroin and cannabis should be reclassified to reflect a scientific assessment of harm, according to a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy

The commission, which includes 14 former heads of states from countries such as Colombia, Mexico, Portugal and New Zealand, said the international classification system underpinning drug control is “biased and inconsistent”.

A “deep-lying imbalance” between controlling substances and allowing access for medicinal purposes had caused “collateral damage”, it said.  

Such damage included patients in low- and middle-income countries forced to undergo surgery without anaesthetic, to go without essential medicines and to die in unnecessary pain due to lack of opioid pain relief.

Restrictions on milder, less harmful drugs should also be loosened, the commission said, to include “other legitimate uses”, including traditional, religious or social use.

Some illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, cannabis and cannabis resin, were evaluated up to 30 years ago or have never been evaluated, Dreifuss said, which seriously undermines their international control.

These lists of illegal drugs were created by people who had little, if any, scientific background. The impetus was a desire to “get rid of” or “punish into submission” people addicted to whatever the current drug of choice was.

So they created rules/laws that allowed law enforcement to muscle in on and override medical care by making addiction a crime instead of the brain disability it is.

It’s absurd to believe mental illness can be “cured” by punishment, but that’s the philosophy of the everlasting drug war.

Asked whether these drugs should be reclassified, Juan Manuel Santos, the former president of Colombia, replied “yes”. “The scientific basis is non-existent,”

It was a political decision. According to the studies we’ve seen over past years, substances like cannabis are less harmful than alcohol,” he said. “I come from Colombia, probably the country that has paid the highest price for the war on drugs.”

After 50 years, the war on drugs has not been won, Santos said

The WHO estimated in 2011 that 83% of the world’s population lived in countries with low or non-existent access to opioid pain relief.

The commission’s recent report looks into how “biased” historical classification of substances, with its emphasis on prohibition, has contributed to the world drug problem.

I wonder how much longer anyone is going to listen to what America thinks. We’ve embarrassed ourselves with our not only ineffective but actively counterproductive drug war and eventually, the rest of the world will get tired of shouldering the burdens of our foolishness.

Under the current system, in place since 1961, decisions on classifying drugs are taken by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), a body of UN member states established by the UN Economic and Social Council. The WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence provides recommendations to the CND. However, the recommendations are then voted on by the CND members, leaving them open to political decisions.

“The international community should recognise that the system is broken,” said Clark. “They should recognise the inconsistencies and it should trigger a review.”

The commission called on the international community to move towards the legal regulation and use of drugs. In January, the WHO recognised the medical benefits of cannabis and recommended it be reclassified worldwide.

He said a “crisis of regulation” in the US had led to the “dreadful consequences” of the opioid crisis, as a result of which 72,000 people died in 2017.

Yes, this is exactly the problem: we have a “regulation crisis”, not an “opioid crisis”.

“We need to think of these things with a fresh outlook,” said Anand Grover, the former special UN rapporteur for health, India. “We can’t go with the cultural biases of the west.”

At least Mr. Grover isn’t afraid to state the truth, even if it angers the US drug warriors.

2 thoughts on “Illegal drug classifications based on politics not science

  1. canarensis

    I was just reading earlier about our first Prohibition, & how many, many thousands died* (nobody knows the actual number) b/c in order to “prevent” people from drinking the products & solutions that still had to contain alcohol, they “denatured” the alcohol by adding poisons. But of course people drank the stuff anyway & died in droves. One of the many ways that Prohibition worked out so well. It was well known that lots were dying from (among many other things) throwing Sterno (it is/was so caustic you can’t/couldn’t drink it), but they were mostly “bums” & “hobos,” so no great loss).

    The old saying, “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is as true now as it ever was. Of course, we also have to deal with those who do remember the past but do moronic, murderous things anyway b/c they can get money or power or fame from it & just don’t give a rip.

    *That doesn’t even count who knows how many died from millions of gallons of homemade booze that turned out methanol instead of ethanol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      It’s easier to blame some evil drug, whether it’s meth or cocaine or illicit opioid, than to address the reasons for so many people turning to drugs in them first place. I think it’s closely related to the rising numbers of suicides as well. Life in this “great” country has gotten so bad for so many that they’re choosing to leave it all behind.



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