The global war on drugs has failed – NZ losing millions in drug revenues

This is from the executive summary of the UN Global Commission on Drug Policy released in June 2011.

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.

Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers.

Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use. Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.

Urgent action required

Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime. Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights – and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation.”

New Zealand’s missing out

In New Zealand, all psychoactive drugs except alcohol are prohibited, and users are prosecuted. And yet over 700,000 Kiwis smoke cannabis every year, 100,000 nearly every day. The number of prosecutions for cannabis offences is rising and in 2008, there were 9,500 convictions. Enforcement and social costs have gone up accordingly. In 2001, the black market for cannabis in New Zealand was estimated at $190 million; in 2006 the social costs, which includes the cost of police, the courts and Corrections to enforce cannabis laws, were estimated at $430 million.

This approach is part of the failed strategy of prohibition condemned by the UN and is a huge waste of money and resources. Police time could be better spent investigation more serious crimes – ones with victims.

If cannabis was deregulated and taxed (like alcohol and cigarettes), and police no longer had to enforce prohitibition laws against cannabis users, the net benefit to society is estimated to be between $400 and $860 million.

That revenue could be put to much better use than making criminals out of the 700,000 New Zealanders who like to smoke it every year. It could even be put into improving alcohol and drug treatment services which are woefully underfunded.

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