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World Health Organization quietly endorses drug decriminalization
July 21, 2014 7:20 PM   Subscribe

"The United Nations approves of the criminalization of narcotics. But the World Health Organization, a branch of the UN, apparently disagrees. The Economist has flagged a report on prevention and treatment for HIV in groups most likely to contract the disease. In the report, the WHO quietly recommends decriminalizing drugs — specifically, injectable drugs that spread HIV."

"According to a recommendation made in the report, 'Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.' Buried several pages into the 113-page report, it's not the most explicit announcement, but it is a rebuttal to the UN's official stance: prohibition, with criminal penalties for offenders."
posted by bookman117 (15 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are very few things for which a harm reduction model is worse than a moralizing and hardline approach. If enough reports and pilot projects keep chipping away at this, maybe we will have a world where fewer people are hurt unnecessarily.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:44 PM on July 21 [5 favorites]


a world where fewer people are hurt unnecessarily

sends the wrong message. Wrongdoers* must be punished.

*people we punish
posted by flabdablet at 8:09 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


But we musn't legalise wee.
posted by Devonian at 8:28 PM on July 21


I work for a syringe exchange. We've been saying this shit for decades. AMA.
posted by The White Hat at 9:09 PM on July 21 [8 favorites]


Much of the HIV world has been on the side of decriminalizing drug use since the 2010 Vienna International AIDS Conference, with the Vienna Declaration. This is also consistent with the American Public Health Association's position on decriminalizing drug use for public health ends.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:14 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]




I have been so often gobsmacked by the values gap between myself and those who make serious attempts to argue against the principle of evidence-based harm minimization that I can no longer do anything but shake my head sadly at their obtuseness.

If it were just a matter of legitimate disagreement about how best to go about minimizing harm, that would be something else entirely. But the evidence that prohibition causes more social harm than the prohibited substances do has been abundant and unambiguous since the US experiment with Prohibition nearly a hundred years ago.

To argue that this is either not so or not important puts you, in my mind, squarely in the deficient mental camp occupied by anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers and opponents of gender-irrelevant marriage.
posted by flabdablet at 10:16 PM on July 21 [8 favorites]


flabdablet: "To argue that this is either not so or not important puts you, in my mind, squarely in the deficient mental camp occupied by anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers and opponents of gender-irrelevant marriage."

I've never thought of it before, but those are really, really apt parallels.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:32 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]




"Quietly" means plastered across the news and blog sites for a week, right?
posted by clvrmnky at 5:47 AM on July 22


The UN is not a monolithic entity with streamlined positions across all its subsidiary agencies. News at eleven.
posted by brokkr at 5:51 AM on July 22


> The UN is not a monolithic entity with streamlined positions across all its subsidiary agencies. News at eleven.

When internal dissent in an organization becomes publicized, it is either because a branch has decided that an issue is important enough to risk breaking ranks and seeking public support for, or because the organization's internal hierarchy is weakening.

So, yes, this is interesting news.

For many people, decriminalizing street drug use of every variety, not merely the scariest-sounding ones, is entirely analogous to legalizing murder, thanks to having led lives that insulated them from users, and generations worth of anti-drug public awareness programs. They're not stupid idiots. They're not mentally deficient. What they've done is set their minds about an issue in a particular way which, since it involves human health and welfare, becomes an emotional matter and more difficult to discuss in a rationally abstracted way.

There are probably many people like that at the decision-making levels of the UN. WHO will have a hard time ahead of them if they decide to set policies and actions based on this report's conclusions. Within bureaucratic context, this can be the declaration of commitment to radical change. Bureaucracies hate radical change.
posted by ardgedee at 6:26 AM on July 22


ardgedee: "When internal dissent in an organization becomes publicized, it is either because a branch has decided that an issue is important enough to risk breaking ranks and seeking public support for, or because the organization's internal hierarchy is weakening."
The WHO has a fairly large influence on the UN's attitude towards drugs through its recommendations to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs:
In no case can the Commission decide to extend control to a substance if the World Health Organization has not recommended to do it.
Also, there is a difference between the attitude of the UN's agencies and the decisions taken by the General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies, such as the ECOSOC which is responsible for this area. The UN agencies are made up of international diplomats and subject matter experts, while the decision power lies with ministers and ambassadors of the member states.
posted by brokkr at 7:55 AM on July 22


human health and welfare

Again, if the disagreement were about how to maximize human health and welfare, it would not be what it is. Instead, it's about how to maximize the health and welfare of people we think are like us.

People supposedly not like us - people in prison, or with skin of a different color, or who sound scary when they speak, or who have less money: screw those people. Take away their rights. Leave them them locked up like the worthless pieces of shit we assume them to be. That's all quite acceptable, as is the violent organized crime and the associated corruption of law enforcement that prohibition creates on such a massive scale.

This attitude is mentally and morally deficient, and the mere fact that all the issues involved are emotionally difficult is not an excuse for it.
posted by flabdablet at 8:21 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


The WHO has also recommended that gay and bisexual men should all take prophylactic anti-retroviral medication! That's a massive thing and I'm surprised it hasn't gotten any play in the news.
posted by Justinian at 5:22 PM on July 22


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