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Kofi Annan says it is time to legalize drugs

Somehow I did not expect this from the former Secretary General of the United Nations:

Lift the ban! Kofi Annan on Why It’s Time To Legalize Drugs

In my experience, good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not. Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.

Nowhere is this divorce between rhetoric and reality more evident than in the formulation of global drug policies, where too often emotions and ideology rather than evidence have prevailed.

Take the case of the medical use of cannabis. By looking carefully at the evidence from the United States, we now know that legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes has not, as opponents argued, led to an increase in its use by teenagers. By contrast, there has been a near tripling of American deaths from heroin overdoses between 2010 and 2013, even though the law and its severe punishments remain unchanged.

This year, between April 19 and 21, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a special session on drugs and the world will have a chance to change course. As we approach that event, we need to ask ourselves if we are on the right policy path. More specifically, how do we deal with what the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has called the “unintended consequences” of the policies of the last 50 years, which have helped, among other things, to create a vast, international criminal market in drugs that fuels violence, corruption and instability? Just think of the 16,000 murders in Mexico in 2013, many of which are directly linked to drug trafficking.

Der Spiegel

The tone is condescending (“popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions”) and gently repressive (“The steps taken successfully to reduce tobacco consumption … show what can be achieved.”). Mr Annan makes no reference to questions of personal liberty. All the same, when the world’s former top tranzi starts talking this way it may be that, for the War on Drugs, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.*

*With the slight difference from Churchill’s time that in this case the good outcome is surrender.

25 comments to Kofi Annan says it is time to legalize drugs

  • The headline should probably read:

    “Kofi Annan says it is time to legalize drugs…AGAIN!

    The main stumbling block is the recalcitrance of the US Federal Government because of all the pork that gets poured into the bullshit “War on Drugs” which achieves little more than massive numbers of deaths, creates vast profits for criminals and unreasonably criminalises people for often harmless behaviours.

    There should certainly be decriminalisation of certain forms of Cannabis as a gradual step towards repeal although arguments about cocaine and heroine are harder, at the very least they should be brought within some form of legal framework so that it is not criminals who are feeding this garbage into the veins of drug users.

  • Stonyground

    The case for banning the really dangerous drugs can only be made if, by banning them, they can be made unavailable so that nobody gets to use them. Once it is accepted that criminals will supply them and users will therefore be able to obtain them the argument for banning them is lost.

  • If a regulated agency supplies drugs such as Heroine (trademark of Bayer as I recall) and cocaine at a fixed price above the cost of production, but below the drug traffickers price then I believe that would stem the tide of criminality around trafficking, but your then left with the problem of what to do with the addicts?

    I don’t think the same applies to Cannabis although I know there are concerns over high THC variants such as Skunk and the impact on adolescent brain development. Not sure how much of this is fact or DEA propaganda.

  • Laird

    JG, you have “the problem of what to do with the addicts” anyway. Legalization won’t change that. What it will change is the quality of the drugs, their cost, and the necessity of dealing with criminals in order to obtain them. There are no good rational arguments against legalization, only emotional ones (coupled with the legacy of a century of governmental lies and distortions). Unfortunately, emotion trumps reason almost every time.

    Still, this is a welcome development, even if I doubt that it will make much difference.

  • @Laird:

    Yes, I think you’re right. I suspect my reluctance to go from prohibition to legalisation is that it is a very significant change.

    But as you say, 100 years of drugs prohibition hasn’t worked so it’s time for something else.

  • Richard Quigley

    Legalise the sale of drugs. However, make it mandatory that whoever sells a drug assumes the responsibility for the costs (medical treatment, daily feed & care etc.) that the user may impose on broader society. You set a minimum income level (don’t care how you do it: unemployment insurance, tax credits, guaranteed income supplement, welfare payments of whatever stripe…) & the sellers can negotiate to take that in return for housing & care of the incurably addicted & other consumers of their product.

    I suppose that might be seen as another way to privatise a mental health problem. But I’d rather see the problem privatised than watch a government screw it up.

  • Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray

    It’s amazing how selective Governments can be in their moral outrage. If the US Government banned cigarettes, wouldn’t Virginia go bankrupt?

  • pete

    Legalising drugs would mean the loss of many public sector jobs in the police, drugs education etc.

    So it won’t happen.

  • pst314

    Considering the sort of government Kofi Annan wants us to live under, cheap and legal drugs might make it easier to endure the years until death bring sweet, sweet release.

  • Tranio

    John Galt “100 years of drug prohibition hasn’t worked.” Au contraire It has worked for everyone who is not doing drugs.

  • JS

    It hasn’t helped the people who are the victims of crimes perpetrated by addicts to pay for their addiction. It hasn’t helped the taxpayers who fund a failed war on drugs.
    It hasn’t even helped the users as they get dangerously adulterated drugs. If drugs weren’t illegal most wouldn’t even be addicts in the first place as there would be no incentive for criminals to get them hooked.
    In the days before prohibition in the UK the few people who were addicts through, for example, becoming hooked on morphine after its use as a painkiller, were prescribed the clean drugs by a doctor and lived an otherwise normal life.
    Drug use only rocketed after becoming illegal.

  • @Tranio:

    Tell that to the thousands of Mexicans killed in recent years, mostly innocent civilians or indeed the ever growing number of genuine victims of the cartels.

    I don’t do drugs either, but the impact of ever more draconian enforcement, especially since the 1970’s has done more harm than good. Legalisation doesn’t mean that everyone would be suddenly whacked out of their gourd all of the time and there would still be laws against driving / flying / sailing while under the influence of drugs.

    It comes back to the age-old argument that what adults do in the privacy of their own homes is no business of the state.

  • Bogdan from Aussie

    Tranio’s intellect went TRANNY. You could sent scantily dressed Playboy models in order to pursue me to buy pot from them. It shall make no impact on me.
    If you are idiotic enough to poison yourself that is your problem not mine.
    Nobody forces you to slurp on the weeds.
    The only ones terrified of the decriminalisation of drugs are those who are terrified that the people could start looking after themselves and there would be no one to look after.
    What all those bleeding hearts good doers would be doing?
    Most probably they would have to start looking for a real jobs.
    This is a HORROR scenario for every PARASITE.

  • “In my experience, good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not.” Who would ever have expected Kofi to utter such an appalling idea. Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, the federalists and now Kofi – strange company for him to keep. Using his _experience_ to suggest policy, not a theory with noble goals! What has happened to the man?

    Someone above wisely remarked that the addicts will remain, though the dealers may depart. As there’s no such thing as a free drug-induced haze any more than a free lunch, the direct thefts they commit and the handouts we’re taxed to give them (on this blog I need not note that’s taking by force either way) will not vanish just through legalisation.

    A graver problem remains – the horrible culture of “Everything not forbidden is compulsory”. We know – from _our_ experience – how short a time it can be from the end of “it’s illegal” to the start of “criticising it is illegal”. Will Scotland’s named person initiative be smoking out those parents with “bigoted” attitudes to druggies? Will firms not dare ask when hiring – or customers dare complain when noticing? There’s a good deal of mutual support in the elements of a free culture – and contrariwise in the elements of one not so free.

    I’m pleased that one of the usual suspects has suddenly voiced the heretical idea of consulting his experience instead of his ideology. That Sherlock Homes, crime-fighter, occasionally took cocaine, and that Dr Watson voiced his strong opinions about that without having to fear any hate speech laws, are things equally to be remembered in imagining the post drug-war society.

  • Alisa

    You should comment more often, Bogdan!

  • Alisa

    This is hardly Annan’s idea, or at least not his alone – he would not be voicing it publicly if it was. I recall some other person/institution within the UN expressing similar ideas several months ago. Add to that the recent de-criminalization in Portugal, some US states, and a few other places, and I get the impression that this is a consensus that has been forming within the Tranzi elites for a while now. Progressives tend to be much more pragmatic than, say, Communists or Islamists, so this is not all that surprising – question is, cui bono? Niall’s comment above may just contain a hint towards at least a partial answer.

  • Gareth

    This year, between April 19 and 21, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a special session on drugs

    Given what usually comes out of the UN will we notice any difference?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Gareth, I laughed my head off at that. But I want it understood that I wasn’t off my head at the time.

  • mojo

    I have to assume, given the UN’s history, that Kofi gets a cut.

  • Alisa

    Yep, that is a realistic assumption. As long as we are talking about ‘legalization’ or ‘decriminalization’ and similar, rather than simple repeal of all the relevant laws, and elimination of the relevant institutions, the use of drugs will remain highly regulated, and the regulators will profit accordingly.

  • Paul Marks

    Just because K. A. holds a position does not mean that it is wrong – although it is not a point in favour of the position.

    As for drugs.

    If they are legal that means they are legal – i.e. available at the local supermarket. Otherwise criminals would continue to profit from them (so “deccriminalisation” solves nothing).

    Nor should there be any “help” (welfare) for drug abusers – or any “anti discrimination” laws in their favour.

    Suicide is legal – but people should not be told that it is just a game (that they are going to stand up after they have committed suicide).

    Death is death.

  • Laird

    Actually, Paul, suicide is illegal in most places that I know of. I’ve always found that a bit puzzling, but the obvious solution is to make attempted suicide a capital crime and impose the death penalty for it. That should satisfy everyone.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Paul Marks, I didn’t this time, but usually when I mention that I support the legalization of drugs I try to add that I strongly advise against taking drugs, including – perhaps especially – so-called soft drugs. I’ve known a couple of people who suffered mental degeneration due to drug-taking. One of them was reduced to a shell and may be dead now.

    Laird, you write, “suicide is illegal in most places that I know of” I’m surprised, and to be honest, sceptical. Suicide was decriminalized in the UK as far back as 1961. Most of the countries listed in this Wikipedia article seem to have decriminalized it. The most notable exception is India, although that may soon change. However the list is biased towards developed countries.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Whilst the attention on violence from drug cartels and addicts is certainly a consequence and a correlation, they wont go away with legalization.

    I’m not wholly against decriminalization, but supportive arguments using the “victims” of drug crime are not appropriate. Central American cartels now control other things like avocados and limes in the same way, the problem is not the product but the lawlessness of the environment they are produced in, that is not going to change if the drugs are legalized elsewhere, the killings will continue just as they do with common fruit that is legal and healthy.

    Similarly, using the argument of “victims” of property crime initiated to pay for drugs, the problem is an addict, regardless of the legality of the drug, probably wont be a productive worker and will turn to property crime to fund the habit.

  • Bob (Codename: Sayuri)


    good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not. Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.

    Nowhere is this divorce between rhetoric and reality more evident than in the formulation of global drug policies, where too often emotions and ideology rather than evidence have prevailed.


    Public policy is best shaped by study and analysis of effects of previous implementations of similar or identical policy. Policy based on assumptions and sentiment leads to counterproductive prescriptions and interventions, and unnecessary violence.

    Divorce between rhetoric and reality is most evident in formulation and implementation of socialist policies, where emotion, rather than evidence, prevails.