Tag Archives: U.N.

Don’t Legalize Marijuana, UN Drug Enforcement Board Warns Countries

March 5, 2018 By Tom Angell

A United Nations drug enforcement body is warning international leaders to keep marijuana illegal.

Countries are supposed to prohibit non-medical use of cannabis under international drug control treaties that most nations signed onto decades ago, but a growing number of U.S. states as well as countries like Canada are moving to enact legalization anyway.

“Governments and jurisdictions in North America have continued to pursue policies with respect to the legalization of the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes, in violation of the 1961 Convention as amended,” the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) wrote in its annual report published last week.

Specifically, INCB said that a proposed marijuana legalization law that is moving through Canada’s Parliament is in “contravention” of the international agreements.

“The Board notes with concern that in Canada, draft legislation intended to authorize and regulate the nonmedical consumption of cannabis was introduced in the House of Commons in April 2017,” the report says. “As the Board has stated repeatedly, if passed into law, provisions of Bill C-45, which permit non-medical and non-scientific use of cannabis would be incompatible with the obligations assumed by Canada under the 1961 Convention as amended.”

The UN body also criticized state cannabis legalization policies in the U.S.

“The situation pertaining to cannabis cultivation and trafficking in North America continues to be in flux owing to the widening scope of personal non-medical use schemes in force in certain constituent states of the United States,” it said. “The decriminalization of cannabis has apparently led organized criminal groups to focus on manufacturing and trafficking other illegal drugs, such as heroin.”

The board warned Uruguay, which enacted a national marijuana legalization law in 2013 that it is in “clear violation” of the drug treaties. “The limitation of the use of controlled substances to medicinal and scientific purposes is a fundamental principle to which no derogation is permitted under the 1961 Convention as amended,” INCB wrote in the new report.

The body also raised concerns about pending proposals in the Netherlands that would legalize and regulate marijuana cultivation, saying that would be “inconsistent” with treaties to which the country is a party.

Jamaica gets called out, too, for its 2015 law allowing marijuana for religious use. “The Board reminds the Government of Jamaica and all other parties that under article 4, paragraph (c), of the 1961 Convention as amended only the medical and scientific use of cannabis is authorized and that use for any other purposes, including religious, is not permitted,” the report says.

While INCB notes throughout the report that medical cannabis is allowed under the international conventions, countries are expected to enact strict controls to “ensure that cannabis is prescribed by competent medical practitioners according to sound medical practice and based on sound scientific evidence.”

And personal cultivation of medical marijuana by patients is not permitted, the board argues.

“Those articles require States providing for the use of cannabis for medical purposes to establish a national cannabis agency to control, supervise and license its cultivation. Such agencies must designate the areas in which the cultivation of cannabis is permitted; ensure the licensing of producers; purchase and take physical possession of stocks; and maintain a monopoly on wholesale trading and maintaining stocks,” the report reads. “States must take measures to prohibit the unauthorized cultivation of cannabis plants, to seize and destroy illicit crops, and to prevent the misuse of and trafficking in cannabis. Similarly, the Board wishes to draw the attention of all Governments to its previously stated position that personal cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes is inconsistent with the 1961 Convention as amended because, inter alia, it heightens the risk of diversion.”

While INCB ostensibly has enforcement authority over the provisions of the international drug control treaties, its actions usually don’t amount to more than the issuing of sternly worded reports, so it is unlikely that this year’s version will do more to stop the international movement toward marijuana legalization than similar past missives have.



How the U.N. is stealing our “UNALIENABLE RIGHTS” to grow food and Medicine through U.N. Convention on Narcotic Drugs


Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016

Secretary’s Preface

Promoting human rights and democratic governance is a core element of U.S. foreign policy. These values form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies. Standing up for human rights and democracy is not just a moral imperative but is in the best interests of the United States in making the world more stable and secure. The 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (The Human Rights Reports) demonstrate the United States’ unwavering commitment to advancing liberty, human dignity, and global prosperity.

This year marks the 41st year the Department of State has produced annual Human Rights Reports. The United States Congress mandated these reports to provide policymakers with a holistic and accurate accounting of human rights conditions in nearly 200 countries and territories worldwide, including all member states of the United Nations and any country receiving U.S. foreign assistance. The reports cover internationally recognized individual civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments.

The Human Rights Reports reflect the concerted efforts of our embassies and consulates to gather the most accurate information possible. They are prepared by human rights officers at U.S. missions around the world who review information available from a wide variety of civil society, government, and other sources. These reports represent thousands of work-hours as each country team collects and analyzes information. The Department of State strives to make the reports objective and uniform in scope and quality.

The Human Rights Reports are used by the U.S. Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches as a resource for shaping policy and guiding decisions, informing diplomatic engagements, and determining the allocation of foreign aid and security sector assistance. The Human Rights Reports are also used throughout the world to inform the work of human rights advocates, lawmakers, academics, businesses, multilateral institutions, and NGOs.

The Department of State hopes these reports will help other governments, civil society leaders, activists, and individuals reflect on the situation of human rights in their respective countries and work to promote accountability for violations and abuses.

Our values are our interests when it comes to human rights. The production of these reports underscores our commitment to freedom, democracy, and the human rights guaranteed to all individuals around the world.

I hereby transmit the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 to the United States Congress.

Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State


PDF DOC of Formal Report

WHO Takes First Steps To Reclassify Medical Cannabis Under International Law


by Scott Gacek on January 01, 2017


It could still be a long wait, but patients in the United States may not be dependent on the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) recently met and initiated the first steps in a long process that could lead to the rescheduling of medical marijuana under international law, and has committed to hold a special session to discuss medical marijuana in the next eighteen months.

“In order for cannabis to be rescheduled, the United Nations General Assembly would vote on a recommendation made by the CND.”

Eighteen months may seem like a long time, but discussions regarding the potential rescheduling of cannabis have been stalled for years, and the process could result in fundamental changes in the way medical marijuana research and regulations are handled in the United States and around the world.

The ECDD is a very influential committee whose recommendations are made to the Secretary General of the United Nations, who can then bring the recommendations to a vote by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). In order for cannabis to be rescheduled, the United Nations General Assembly would vote on a recommendation made by the CND.

If approved by the UN General Assembly, those changes would then be reflected in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which currently lists cannabis as a Schedule I and IV substance, meaning a substance with a high risk of abuse, produces ill effects, and has no potential therapeutic benefit.

Under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which was ratified in 1961 and is signed by 185 of the 193 countries that make up the United Nations, including the United States, member countries are responsible for passing and enforcing their own drug laws, but the Single Convention is regarded as the standard for international drug laws. Many lawmakers point to the Single Convention as the primary obstacle in the United States’ inability to reschedule cannabis.

According to an extract from the 38th Expert Committee on Drug Dependence that convened from November 14-18 in Geneva, the committee recognized an increase in the use of cannabis and its components for medical purposes, the emergence of new cannabis-related pharmaceutical preparations for therapeutic use, and that cannabis has never been subject to a formal pre-review or critical review by the ECDD.

Over the next eighteen months, the committee has requested pre-reviews for cannabis plant matter, extracts and tinctures, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and stereoisomers of THC.

This pre-review is a preliminary analysis used to determine if a more in-depth critical review will be undertaken by the ECDD, and will represent the first new scientific guidance on marijuana to the United Nations since 1935, when cannabis was first classified as a Schedule I/IV substance by the Health Committee of the League of Nations.

Rescheduling at the international level would have major ramifications for US policy on medical cannabis, as all too often politicians cite the Single Convention as the reason Congress cannot move towards rescheduling cannabis. So while this may seem like a long, drawn out process, it could ultimately remove that final roadblock, making it well worth the wait.






9 ways federal marijuana laws are limiting rights of residents in legal weed states

Federal status of marijuana is affecting both everyday cannabis consumers and people attempting to work in the industry.


Published: Feb. 4, 2017 Updated: Feb. 5, 2017 2:45 p.m.

 Derek Peterson, CEO and president of Terra Tech. Just weeks after Prop. 64 passed, Peterson learned the company that for two years had managed Terra Tech's payroll and health benefits would be dropping them, Dec. 31, because of concern over their role in the cannabis industry. “The decision came out of nowhere,” he said. “We have almost 200 employees that spent their holiday season stressed about the possibility of not having their health benefits available in the new year, let alone a reliable pay schedule.” (File Photo by ED CRISOSTOMO, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, a category reserved for drugs such as heroin that are said to be highly addictive and have no medical value. There’s been no movement to ease that stance even though polls show a record number of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal, 28 states now permit medical marijuana and eight more allow recreational use.
One thing that has changed is the optimism some cannabis enthusiasts expressed prior to the November election.
As the biggest state in the nation prepared to vote on legalizing recreational use with Prop. 64, the thinking was that California could become a tipping point that would ultimately lead to federal approval of cannabis.
Prop. 64 easily passed. But confidence in the impact of that vote has dimmed as the reality of a GOP-controlled federal government headed by President Donald Trump – and the prospect of marijuana-opponent Jeff Sessions as Attorney General – has settled in.
For individuals, the ongoing conflict with federal law can make it harder to get everything from housing to healthcare, even if they use cannabis for medical reasons says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.
And for Californians who want to make money in the cannabis industry, the differences between state and federal law can affect how they bank, pay taxes and more.
“It’s a serious hindrance,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution who specializes in marijuana policy.
“It creates a scenario in which companies are able to get up and running, but not operate like a normal business.”
Here are nine ways the federal status of marijuana is affecting both everyday cannabis consumers and people attempting to work in the industry, no matter what their state law says.


The DEA has filed notice of intent to add Kratom to schedule 1


Mitragyna speciosa111.JPGVarious forms of kratom and teas made from the plant’s leaves are sold in cafes and on the internet. Their primary effect is to provide a short-lived peaceful and calm feeling that is described as pleasant. Consistent with this effect being opioid-like, anecdotal reports indicate that some users have used kratom to successfully recover from physical and psychological dependence on prescription opioids and heroin. Comments on my last report on kratom have also indicated the successful use of teas made from the plant in managing chronic pain without the side effects and addictive potential of prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine. LINK

Due to be published in the “Federal Register” on August 31st, 2016 is the DEA’s “Intent to reschedule” the opioids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine  These are the “ingredients” of the plant Kratom and they are placing it into schedule I using the “temporary scheduling provisions” of the Controlled Substances Act.

Federal Register Kratom

The Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, issued this document:

DOJ Kratom

There is a petition at Whitehouse.Gov that is asking the Federal Government to not go thru with this decision. 



The “drug war” has taken enough of our plants and enough of our lives.  We cannot continue to let them regulate us out of every plant of food and medicine which were given to us as Our “inalienable rights” as Human Beings and laid out in Our Constitution as such, and regulate it out of our reach through the use of “Agenda 21” as laid out by the United Nations, in which the United States is one of only five “permanent members”!

First, PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION, and then make phone calls and write letters to your Representatives concerning this issue!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


“Rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to purposes and principles of the United Nations.” HOW THE UNITED NATIONS IS STEALING OUR “UNALIENABLE RIGHTS” TO GROW FOOD AND MEDICINE THROUGH THE U.N. CONVENTION ON NARCOTIC DRUGS AND AGENDA 21. Sheree Krider

The FDA Just Outlawed Hemp Oil – Secrets of the Fed.Com

FORBES announced today:  The DEA Is Placing Kratom And Mitragynine On Schedule I

Take Back Kentucky Legislative Action Alert

(KY) Oppose: Senate Bill 136: Banning of the Kratom Herb 2/22/2016

693,482 individuals in the United States were arrested in 2013 and charged with marijuana violations

Why legalizing marijuana will be much harder than you think



By Erwin Chemerinsky April 27

Each week, In Theory takes on a big idea in the news and explores it from a range of perspectives. This week, we’re talking about drug scheduling. Need a primer? Catch up here.

Erwin Chemerinsky is dean and distinguished professor of law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law

There are rumors that the federal government may soon lift its ban on marijuana, but that wouldn’t end marijuana prohibitions in the United States. This incongruity is the result of federalism: the ability of each jurisdiction — the federal government and every state — to maintain its own laws as to which drugs are illegal and which are not.

Completely legalizing marijuana in the United States would require the actions of both the federal government and every state government. If the federal government repealed its criminal prohibition of marijuana or rescheduled the drug under federal law, that would not change state laws that forbid its possession or sale. Likewise, state governments can repeal their marijuana laws, in whole or in part, but that does not change federal law.

[The paradox at the heart of our marijuana laws — and how to fix it]

When Colorado and Washington legalized the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, questions arose as to how this would interact with federal law. Specifically, the question was whether such state efforts are preempted by the federal law, which still prohibits marijuana as a controlled substance like heroin and cocaine.

The answer is clear: States can have whatever laws they want with regard to marijuana or any other drug. No state is required to have a law prohibiting or regulating marijuana. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that Congress cannot force states to enact laws; such coercion violates the 10th Amendment. A state could choose to have no law prohibiting marijuana, or a law prohibiting marijuana with an exception for medical use, or a law allowing possession of small amounts of marijuana, or anything else. In fact, across the United States today, this is exactly the situation — many states have very different laws concerning marijuana.

Similarly, if the federal government were to repeal the prohibition of marijuana or reschedule it under the Controlled Substances Act, that would not change state laws. States still could prohibit and punish the sale and possession of marijuana under state criminal statutes.

Contrary to what many believe, marijuana laws continue to be enforced by both states and the federal government. According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 693,482 individuals in the United States were arrested in 2013 and charged with marijuana violations. Of these, 609,423 — or 88 percent — were arrested for simple possession. There is an enormous cost in terms of law enforcement resources, the criminal justice system and people’s lives for marijuana to remain illegal. Even for those arrested and never prosecuted or convicted, arrest records have real harms in terms of the ability to get jobs, loans, housing and benefits.

Like all drug laws, the prohibition against marijuana is much more likely to be enforced against African Americans and Latinos than against whites. According to a 2013 study, whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly the same rates, but blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession of marijuana.

[Legal marijuana is finally doing what the drug war couldn’t]

In Theory newsletter

Emerging ideas and arguments behind the news.

Yet there is little benefit to illegality. The primary argument for keeping marijuana illegal is that it is harmful. But as President Obama observed, pot is no “more dangerous than alcohol.” Many things are harmful — cigarettes, foods high in sugar and salt and cholesterol — but that does not mean that they should be illegal. In fact, there is a good deal of evidence that marijuana is significantly less harmful than tobacco or alcohol and that it has benefits in treating some medical conditions such as glaucoma and seizure disorders, and alleviating some of the ill effects of chemotherapy. That is why 24 states and the District allow medical use of marijuana.

Like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, the prohibition of marijuana has been a failure. The drug is readily available and it is estimated that 30 million Americans used it in the past year. And similar to the prohibition of alcohol, it is a costly failure. In addition to the cost in enforcing the criminal laws, there is the loss of significant revenue that could be gained from taxation and legalization.

It is a question of when, not whether, marijuana becomes legal in the United States. A study by the Pew Research Center last year found that a majority of Americans now favor legalization and only 44 percent believe it should be illegal. Of those under 35 years old, 68 percent believe that marijuana should be legal. But there is no doubt that the confusion federalism entails will make legalizing marijuana much more difficult.

Explore these other perspectives:

Keith Humphreys: The paradox at the heart of our marijuana laws — and how to fix it


As A Big UN Drug Policy Summit Draws Near, Will Marijuana Activists Become Global Drug Reformers?

By Joel Warner @joelmwarner On 03/29/16 AT 7:56 AM


Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance and one of the most recognized speakers in drug policy circles, doesn’t mince words when he gets up to talk at marijuana industry events. “Frankly,” he often says, “I am not interested in meeting most of you.” The only people he wants to talk to, he tells his audiences, are those who are going to make a lot of money in the new marijuana industry in an ethical way and are interested in certain social issues that could make them ideal foot soldiers in the wider struggle against the global war on drugs.

That’s because Nadelmann and DPA aren’t just interested in marijuana legalization — they’re interested in wider drug policy reform in the United States and beyond.

Lately, calls for such reforms have reached a fever pitch, thanks to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem on April 19-21, the first time the U.N. has held a special session on drug policy since 1998. Broad coalitions of nongovernmental organizations are pushing member nations like the United States to advocate for bold changes at the meeting. The latest issue of Harper’s Magazine is calling for the legalization of all drugs. And a report released last week by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Lancet condemns the global war on drugs for contributing to myriad public health crises.

Meanwhile, targeted efforts are afoot to shift drug policies in the United States. Groups of lawmakers in Maryland and Hawaii are exploring the decriminalization of low-level drug offenses, and Ithaca, New York, is considering opening a heroin injection center in response to the city’s growing drug crisis. “Things have changed enormously. There was no legalization on the horizon when I got involved in this,” said Dave Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, who has been advocating for such reforms since the early 1990s. “At that point, there were tough-on-drugs bills all the time. Today, reforming drug sentences is one of the few partisan issues on Capitol Hill. There’s been a total reversal of politics on this issue, even though the changes are still slow to unfold.”

Marijuana legalization is helping to drive these changes. The fact that four U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis underpins the tough international drug policies the United States has championed for decades, while demonstrating the social impact of such reforms is far from catastrophic. And some marijuana advocates and industry stakeholders are already wading into the global drug policy debate; major marijuana groups such as Marijuana Policy Project and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, plus cannabis business interests such as the ArcView Group and Denver Relief Consulting are among members of an ad hoc coalition of organizations calling for narcotics law reforms in the lead-up to the UNGASS. Not only that, but the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access just submitted a lengthy report to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs outlining potential international medical cannabis reforms.

The growing push for drug law reform beyond marijuana legalization could also lead to divisions among cannabis advocates. Should the U.S. marijuana movement, which has become a political and financial force to be reckoned with, help lead the vanguard in changing drug laws around world? Or should cannabis activists and industry stakeholders stay focused on national marijuana reform, since that could be their best shot at changing the global dialogue on drugs?

“There is no way one cannot want to engage in these UNGASS efforts,” said Allen F. St. Pierre, NORML’s executive director. “But my own political horse sense says it doesn’t equal a hill of beans compared to what is happening on the ground for marijuana right now.”

For some marijuana organizations, the answer is simple: Since their mission is squarely focused on U.S. marijuana legalization, that’s where they need to focus energy and resources. “I think that the work our organization is doing is significantly impacting the international discussion,” said Mason Tvert, MPP’s communications director. “But we are not ourselves working on changing drug laws in Spain. We are focused on marijuana policy, and given the history of the United State being a driver of drug policies worldwide, our work is having an impact on the rest of the world.”

What’s left unsaid is that some of the strategies that operations like MPP are using to reform marijuana laws are ill-suited for wider drug policy debates, such as promoting the idea that marijuana is safer than alcohol. That approach has proven a potent tool, but it wouldn’t work so well in other drug-reform efforts, which are focused not on the relative safety of various narcotics but on the notion that prohibition-based laws combating these drugs make the potential harms even worse.

“I agree with Mason that if people realize marijuana is safer than alcohol, they are more likely to legalize it, but that is not going to fly in the broader drug-policy debate,” said Tom Angell, founder of the cannabis advocacy group Marijuana Majority. “If everything the American people have heard about why we should legalize this one drug hinges on its relative safety, it makes the transition to reforming other drug laws problematic.”

Then there’s the fact that while the marijuana industry is growing by leaps and bounds — the market is estimated to top $20 billion in sales by 2020 — organizations in the scene are still struggling with limited budgets, so they have to make tactical decisions on where to direct their efforts. And right now, for some activists, targeting marijuana legalization might seem like a smarter move than tackling wider drug policy.

For example, while the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition works to reform all drug laws, a good portion of their work these days is focused on cannabis issues, says executive director Major Neill Franklin, a retired police officer. “If marijuana has all the attention right now, if it’s where the media and conversation is, that is where we are going to be,” said Franklin. “We would be fools to not get into that conversation. It helps us move the conversation on heroin, cocaine and other drugs.”

Another major problem is that drug-reform efforts beyond marijuana are still a very hard sell for the American public. Support for cannabis legalization, for example, just hit an all-time high, with 61 percent of Americans in favor of it. On the other hand, while a majority of Americans now support less-stringent narcotics laws like a shift away from mandatory drug sentences, roughly 10 percent or less want drugs such as cocaine, heroin and LSD legalized. That’s less than the percentage of Americans who wanted marijuana legalized in 1970, when the cannabis movement first began gearing up.

“I hope [DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann] lives a very long life,” said St. Pierre at NORML. “He’s laid the groundwork [for wider drug policy reform]. But it will happen much slower than marijuana. These are drugs that at their core are more pharmacologically dangerous. And as a culture, we don’t reaffirm their use. We don’t have heroin magazines or Cocaine Times.”

So for both tactical and financial reasons, many marijuana activists might be wary of engaging in wider narcotic policy reform in this country and beyond. And that could prove to be a liability for those whose activism depends on drawing attention to drug issues beyond marijuana in the United States. “The debate [around marijuana versus general drug policy reform] among international activists was very active when Colorado and Washington first legalized marijuana,” said Joanne Csete, an adjunct public health professor at Columbia University and member of the John Hopkins-Lancet commission that recently released the report on the global drug war. “There were some people dealing with real draconian drug laws in their countries who were worried that marijuana legalization would tick off the box for people. The concern was really all of drug policy would be defined around cannabis. And that would be the end of it.”

But so far, said Csete, those fears have proven unfounded. Instead, she said, “With the international crowd, I see there is a much greater coming together around the idea that, ‘Let’s learn from these legal regulated marijuana markets.’”

And not only is the marijuana movement bolstering drug reform efforts through successful cannabis legalization efforts, but also some activists and entrepreneurs who got their start in marijuana issues are now looking beyond cannabis to other drug reforms. “I think in general the industry is not overall super supportive of drug policy reform because like most industries, there is no economic drive for it that they see in front of them, but I also think that our industry was built from a grassroots activist movement,” said Aaron Justis, CEO of the Buds & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles and board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “It’s why we need to set a good example and put drug policy reform in our budgets now, and not just wait until we have extra money to spend on it. By setting a good example, we can push forward against the global war on drugs.”

It’s not just about setting a good example; for some marijuana activists, getting involved in other reform efforts could be key to their political survival. “I ask my board of directors, ‘As we move through these successions of success, as NORML achieves more and more of its mission statement, what do we do next? Do we continue to exist?’” said St. Pierre. “Can you pivot the marijuana movement — once it is successful — into the drug legalization movement?”

Such considerations are why, according to Nadelmann, among the lines in his speeches that garner the most applause at marijuana events are those that call for global drug policy reform. And it’s why, after such speeches, there are always a few individuals who approach him and say, “I am the person you were interested in talking to.”

Yes, the number of those people is usually small, but according to Nadelmann, it’s growing every day.


Media Silent as US Announces Unprecedented Move to End Drug War




By Claire Bernish | The Anti Media

Slipping by virtually unnoticed, the United States made a surprising move last week toward entirely ending the contentious and wholly ineffective War on Drugs.

With the approach of the first Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss international drug policy in nearly 18 years, Bill Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, discussed the potential for an historic shift in U.S. drug policy with a panel on March 8th.

Seeking to return to a “greater focus on public health and healthcare as relates to the drug issue, rehabilitation, treatment, [and] education,” Brownfield described what will be “a pragmatic approach to reform … global drug policy.”

Despite the moniker Land of the Free, the U.S. recently fell under intense criticism after a number of reports noted the country houses the largest prison population on the planet — a fact President Obama reluctantly admitted last summer.

Should it follow through with decriminalization as Brownfield described, the U.S. government would be marking the first effort to weaken the now-massive prison-industrial machine — including the controversial, corrupt, private prison corporations that now dominate the criminal justice landscape.

“We will call for pragmatic and concrete criminal justice reform, areas such as alternatives to incarceration or drug courts, or sentencing reform,” Brownfield explained. “In other words, as President Obama has said many times publicly, to decriminalize much of basic behavior in drug consumption in order to focus scarce law enforcement resources on the greater challenge of the large transnational criminal organizations.

We will propose greater focus on what we call new psychoactive substances. These are the new drugs … which in the 21st century the pharmaceutical industry can produce at a faster rate than governments or … the United Nations system can actually review and register.

Asked whether countries deciding to move in the direction of Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs in a massive, successful effort to combat addiction, would be penalized for breaking established international narcotics guidelines, Brownfield stated the issue would not be for the U.S. government to decide. He explained wholesale reform of drug policy couldn’t possibly be applied in a one-size-fits-all format, as individual countries are dealing with problems specific to their needs.

As an example, Brownfield pointed to cannabis policy in the U.S.

It is the position of the United States government, for example, that despite the fact that four of our states have voted to legalize the cultivation, production, sale, purchase, and consumption of cannabis, or marijuana, that we are still in compliance with our treaty obligations, because first, the federal law, national law, still proscribes and prohibits marijuana; and second, because the objective, as asserted by the states themselves, is still to reduce the harm caused by consumption [of] marijuana.

Our argument is that at the end of the day, the issue is not precisely whether a government has chosen to decriminalize or not to decriminalize; it is whether the government is still working cooperatively to reduce the harm caused by the product.


Briton, 74, may not survive Saudi’s lashings over illicit wine

(CNN)The crime is related to homemade wine. But can 74-year-old Karl Andree survive the punishment — 360 lashes by Saudi authorities?

His son fears that he won’t, conceding that while Andree may have done wrong in the eyes of Saudi officials, it shouldn’t warrant what may amount to a death sentence.

    "I completely understand that he has committed a crime and, for that, you have to face consequences … He understands as well," Simon Andree told CNN. "But … on the basis of his ill health, (I hope) he can get clemency and get released, because I feel he won’t survive those lashes."

    Alcohol — like narcotics, weapons, pork and pornography — are prohibited in Saudi Arabia, in line with the Middle Eastern nation’s strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. And it’s what got Karl Andree in trouble, for transporting homemade wine in his car.

    The British grandfather has since spent more than a year in custody.

    Simon Andree acknowledges the Saudi law in this case. But he also appealed for authorities there to take into account his father’s physical condition.

    "He’s an old man," the son said.

    British leader writes to Saudi authorities about case

    The Andree family got support Tuesday from British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose office signaled Tuesday that he will reach out to Saudi officials.

    "Given the ongoing concerns and the fact we would like to see more progress, the PM is writing today to the Saudis to further raise the case on the back of the action that has already been taken by the Foreign Office," a spokesperson for Cameron’s office said.

    In another development, UK Secretary of Justice Michael Gove announced Tuesday that his government would withdraw its $9 million (£5.9 million) for training related to the Saudi penal system. The contract was submitted by the commercial arm of the British Ministry of Justice in August 2014, the same month Andree was arrested.

    British authorities didn’t tie this development with Andree.

    Yet a spokesperson for the Foreign Office did say that diplomats have been involved in his case for some time, including "regular visits to check on his welfare, and frequent contact with his lawyer and family."

    "Ministers and senior officials have raised Mr. Andree’s case with the Saudi government," the spokesperson said. "And we are actively seeking his release as soon as possible."

    CNN’s Simon Cullen and Alex Felton contributed to this report.


    Peruvian President Ollanta Humala suspended U.S.-backed plans to begin eradication there and replaced the Peruvian drug czar who was advocating it

    LIMA, Peru — Colombia surpassed Peru last year in land under coca cultivation, with Peru experiencing a 14 per cent drop in acreage for the plant used to make cocaine, according to UN data released Wednesday.

    The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s annual report on Peruvian coca’s crop said it encompassed 42,900 hectares. It’s the crop’s fourth straight year of decline and the smallest area under cultivation since 1998.

    The finding does not necessarily mean Colombia is now the world’s No. 1 cocaine producer, however. Much of Peru’s crop is more mature and higher yielding, having never been subjected to eradication.

    Peru’s government does not destroy coca in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valley, the world’s leading coca-growing region, citing security concerns. The size of Belgium and Israel

    combined, the valley accounts for 68 per cent of Peru’s coca crop.

    Last year, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala suspended U.S.-backed plans to begin eradication there and replaced the Peruvian drug czar who was advocating it.

    The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates Peru’s potential cocaine production for 2014 at 285 metric tons, versus 245 metric tons for Colombia.

    Peru’s drug czar, Alberto Otarola, said his government is not finished measuring potential cocaine production but estimated it at currently “no more than 270 tons.”

    Two weeks ago, the UN said Colombia’s coca acreage skyrocketed in 2014 from 48,000 hectares to 69,000 hectares. That’s in large part because of reduced aerial spraying. The herbicide used, glyphosate, was recently classified by a UN health agency as a probable carcinogen.

    Peru only eradicates manually.

    “We are the Andean region country that has advanced most in reducing coca leaf,” Otarola told reporters. Peru destroyed 31,000 hectares of coca last year and has set the goal of destroying 35,000 hectares this year.

    The policy provokes resistance from the tens of thousands of Peruvians who depend on coca for their livelihood.

    On Tuesday, at least one person was killed and 25 people, including seven police officers, were injured in a clash between coca farmers and police in the Amazonian town of Constitution, local officials said. The farmers were protesting eradication and a lack of alternative development in the region.

    One indicator of cocaine production is the amount of coca leaf harvested per country.

    In 2014, Peru produced an estimated 100,800 metric tons, compared to 132,700 metric tons for Colombia, said Flavio Mirella, the Peru country representative for the UN agency.

    The vast majority of coca leaf grown in both countries is used to produce cocaine.

    The UN and the U.S. both agree that Bolivia is the No. 3 cocaine-producing nation after Colombia and Peru. The White House put Bolivia’s estimated potential cocaine production at 210 metric tons, up from 145 metric tons in 2012.

    Bolivia has become a major transit and refining country for Peruvian cocaine in recent years.

    The U.S. ended counter-narcotics assistance to Bolivia in 2013, five years after its government expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.