28th Feb 2024

War on drugs has produced 'no results,' EU says

  • "Cannabis use has become a 'normal' part of young people's lives in many Western countries," says the report (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ten years after a UN commitment to cut global drug demand and supply, no significant results have been achieved, a European Commission report said on Tuesday (10 March).

"The study on which the report is based has found no evidence that the global drug problem has been reduced during the period from 1998 to 2007," the commission said.

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"Broadly speaking, the situation has improved a little in some of the richer countries, while for others it worsened, and for some of those, it worsened sharply and substantially, among which are a few large developing or transitional countries," it added.

Not only has the drug problem not evolved since the 1998 UN pledge to "significantly reduce" the demand for illicit drugs by 2008, but the situation has now even become "more complex," according to the commission.

Nothing shows that drugs have become harder to obtain and cannabis in particular "has become 'a normal' part of young people's lives in many western countries [and] up to 50 percent of people born after 1980 have at least tried it."

Within the EU, the cannabis market was most developed in the Czech Republic, where it accounted for 0.45 percent of GDP, Italy (0.20%) and France (0.12%).

Additionally, in most western countries, prices for drugs have fallen by 10 to 30 percent, regardless of tougher sentences being imposed on drug sellers, the commission says.

The report comes just ahead of a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs on Wednesday in Vienna, which is to deliver a new UN policy declaration on drugs.

"We cannot limit ourselves in Vienna this week to quantifying objectives. We must now seek to tackle the world drug phenomenon, based on factual evidence," stated EU justice commissioner Jacques Barrot.

'War on drugs' versus 'harm reduction'

Meanwhile, a split has appeared over the UN declaration, with on the one hand countries such as the US and Russia favouring a zero tolerance anti-drugs policy – or the so-called "war on drugs," and on the other hand most EU and Latin American nations backing a stronger emphasis on "harm reduction."

Harm reduction covers programmes such as drug replacement therapy, needle exchanges to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids and keeping non-violent offenders out of prison.

In a publication a week ahead of the conference, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), which pushes for new drug policies, said it would be "shocking" if the UN conference would not result in an agreement to "a clear statement on the importance of HIV prevention amongst drug users, and [the fact] that harm reduction approaches are the most effective response."

"The war on drugs has failed, but they're going to commit themselves to it again," Genevieve Horwood, a British member of the IDPC, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

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