More than 1,000 international leaders – prominent in the fields of politics, health, academics and entertainment – have publicly called for a “new global response to drugs,” in advance of an upcoming United Nations session.
The UN is currently holding a General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, at its New York headquarters. The three-day session involves a meeting of the UN’s member states, in which global drug policy priorities are being discussed and, hopefully, reassessed.
The UN has influenced international drug policy for over half a century. In 1961, it instituted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs – formalizing a list of substances (including marijuana) to be classified as internationally illegal. Unlike typical UN documents – which make use of objective and factual statements – the Single Convention includes biased and subjective phrasing, including the description of drugs as a “serious evil”. This 55 year-old convention remains the legal backbone of modern drug policy, which is considerably contributory to mass incarceration in the United States, as well as violence, corruption, and human rights abuses in Latin America and Southeast Asia.