Jamie Doward’s admirable special report rightly stressed the importance of the UN general assembly special session on drugs (Ungass) to be held in New York later this month.(“Is the prohibition era finally coming to an end?”, News).

As Doward makes clear, the international drugs trade is an ongoing problem that affects all countries but reaches crisis level in producer and transit countries. It is to a very large degree the product of the well intentioned but misguided UN conventions that imposed drugs prohibition on all countries without regard for their cultures or traditions.

The evidence that the harms prohibition creates are much greater than any benefits has long been overwhelming. (I witnessed it in Pablo Escobar’s bloody narco-terrorist campaign in Colombia in the early 90s.) Since then, the drugs trade has fuelled extraordinary levels of violence in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela and Afghanistan, to name just the most dramatic cases.

A reformist group, led by Colombia and Mexico, has secured calls for greater flexibility for individual countries in the draft document of the forthcoming Ungass. But the prohibitionist bloc, led by Russia and China, has blocked any study of the failures of the system.

Uruguay, several US states, and soon Canada too, are experimenting with regulated markets in cannabis. This is the pragmatic way forward and will be followed by others. Let us hope that the world leaders meeting in New York will show more vision than the officials who prepared the draft document and, recognising the inevitability of change, signal the need for the conventions to take account of it.

Sir Keith Morris
Ambassador to Colombia 1990-94
London SE19

http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2016/apr/10/letters-drugs-legalisation-prohibition

Wikipedia Entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Morris_(diplomat)