BB Video: United Nations Drug Policy- the Skeptics Chime In

Derek Bledsoe, Boing Boing Video producer, is blogging daily Boing Boing Video episodes while Xeni's on the road in Africa.

On Wednesday, March 11, 2009 the United Nations' Commission of Narcotic Drugs held its 52nd session in Vienna, Austria, just10 years after Kofi Annan's pledge to have a "drug free world" by 2008. Representatives from around the world attended the conference voicing support and opposition to the centuries old "war on drugs."

Working with Witness and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, we cut together excerpts from "Dare to Question? Using Video to Take on UN Drug Policies" and other testimonials appealing to the United Nations to reconsider its hardline policies combating the cultivation and use of illicit drugs.

Most of the experts interviewed agree that an ideal world would be a drug-free world but perhaps we should put that on the shelf among other concepts like a world without war, disease, or Fox News.

Some interesting facts according to

75% of drug related arrests are related to marijuana 65% of drug related arrests are for simple possession of marijuana

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union also staged a press conference at the entrance of the Vienna International Center speaking from wire cages, attempting to draw attention to unjust penalties and human rights abuses of drug offenders around the world.

We'd like to especially thank the Director of the HCLU, Mr. Balázs Dénes and Istvan Gábor Takács, HCLU's Video Advocacy Guru and Peter Sárosi, DPP Director. To learn more, you can visit Dare to Act and Drug Reporter.

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(Special thanks to Boing Boing Video's hosting and publishing provider Episodic.)


  1. “Most experts agree that an ideal world would be a drug-free world”

    Ooh, controversial! Expect some contradictions on that one.

  2. Are drugs really worth the UN’s time right now? I’d much rather live in Amsterdam than Darfur.

  3. It seems to be self-evident that prohibition of drugs causes far more problems than it solves; furthermore it is obvious that there are glaring contradictions in (the UK’s drug policy) that seriously undermine its credibility.

    A pertinent example is the recent recommendation of the government’s own appointed independent advisory committee made up of medical experts in the field of drug use, abuse and the effects on the human body and mind. They advised that ecstasy be downgraded from Class A to Class B (the head of the committee famously saying that taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse). This was completely ignored by the government, raising the question of why it appointed the advisory committee in the first place. Similar blanking of advice has happened on a number of occasions with cannabis.

    All this while alcohol is still peddled with the warning ‘drink responsibly’; so it is possible to take alcohol responsibly (a drug with generally acknowledged far greater and more severe risks associated with it than, say, cannabis), but not less dangerous drugs?

    Absurd, and obviously confused.

  4. Drug-free? Of course they don’t mean that. What they mean is “Drugs we disapprove of free”. Cocaine has valid medical uses, so does morphine. There are a host of drugs used by medicine that are very similar to illegal drugs.

  5. We all know this. And we can all vote.

    Why is this still a problem? Is it that we are all afraid to call our representatives and give our names? I’m willing to forgo stuff for a year while we all make our voices heard. Is everyone else?

  6. “Most experts agree that an ideal world would be a drug-free world”

    Yep. I look forward to the utopian future free of aspirin, acetaminophen, cough syrup, Prilosec, Alka Seltzer, coffee, Pepto Bismol, beer, vodka, sumatriptin, Zoloft, and cigarettes.

  7. I do not use illegal drugs.
    I do not consume alcohol.
    I do not smoke tobacco.

    That being said, the “war” on drugs is ridiculous and about as winnable a conflict as a war on fingernail biting.

  8. “Most experts agree that an ideal world would be a drug-free world”

    I doubt that. I suggest that those “experts” undergo dental surgery without anesthesia, then ask them again.

  9. “We all know this. And we can all vote.

    Why is this still a problem? Is it that we are all afraid to call our representatives and give our names? I’m willing to forgo stuff for a year while we all make our voices heard. Is everyone else?”

    Because when you vote, the people that vote contrary to your views win. Quirky thing, Democracy.


  10. “We are not debating society”
    “We want to solve the world’s drug problem”

    Oops, you are contradicting yourself.

    Plus, the world will always have a drug problem. The word drug means: “a substance other than food intended to affect the structure or function of the body.” “Drugs” now implies illicit for some reason, and we think of how evil these substances and their users are. Until public perception and attitudes change, we will be at the mercy of policymakers and government that are in bed with those who profit from this “war” on drugs.

    The “war” on drugs isn’t against drugs, its against the people. We are losing our lives to violence, losing our friends to addictions because they can’t get help, and wasting our hard earned money on bad government policies.

  11. there will never be a world free of drugs because there hasn’t ever been a world free of drugs. people like to get high. hell, animals like to get high. have you ever seen the elephants eating fermented marula fruit? it’s a waste of time and macho posturing that is a throwback to religious-fueled prohibition BS.

  12. can you really consider the war on drugs being centuries long? wasn’t that coined by nixon? i don’t think prohibitions based on potential monetary gain by the few can really be called the war on drugs. i believe the current concept of the war on drugs is really a modern and relatively recent phenomenon.

  13. It’s really sad, all the reasons groups of human beings come up with to lock up other human beings.

    I wish i could grab all those responsible for such things by the shoulders, shake them, and scream “STOP IT! STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT!!! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!? STOP IT!!”

    Thousands of lives shattered because our leaders are unprincipled power-grubbing money-lovers who are too busy putting their hands into each others pockets (while lining theirs from our pockets) in the most deplorable circle jerk in all of human history.

    Hey, a couple trillion to bail out those who ran monolithic companies into the ground by employing grossly unethical and irresponsible business practices fueled by greed? SURE!

    But apparently it’s too much of a burden on society to let drugs be legal, because we’d have to spend money on addiction treatment centers. Yeah locking them up is a much better solution : \

  14. It’s a long shot, but if ever there was a group of people that could pull this out of the nether, it’d be BoingBoingers. :)

    I recall, a LONG time ago … I believe I was working one of my first jobs, so we’re talking 15-18 years ago? … WIRED magazine had a two-page ‘advertisement’ regarding the War on Drugs.

    Everything on these two pages was written backwards, like …

    “… like, backwards written was pages two these on Everything”

    At the end of the ad, WIRED (or whomever produced the advertisement, I can’t recall exactly) stated that the War on Drugs has things backwards. How much money they spent fighting it, and how many people were jailed because of it.

    It was fascinating. And when I tried to find it again, so many years ago, I couldn’t. Does anyone recollect this? Anybody happen to scan it? Does WIRED have it in their archives somewhere?

  15. I don’t even know where to begin. It’s crazy. It’s Orewellian. Let’s roll up our sleeves. What defines a “drug” in the context of what they want to eradicate? Can’t use the term illicit, because that’s a legal construct. Can’t use the term “prone for abuse,” because that can apply to television and chocolate. So what does that leaves us with? Pleasurable. Yes. Drugs that offer pleasure, euphoria. That’s what we want to eradicate. Now the question becomes why? The answer, because this pleasure-class of drug destroys lives through addiction and abuse. Okay. Fair enough. But are some people using these drugs without destroying their lives? Yes? Are they vastly in the majority? Yes? Then maybe it’s not the drugs themselves that we really wish to combat, but those that abuse? Now we are getting somewhere. Let’s shift our resources in this direction, rather than the flaming pile of money that is prohibition.

  16. Just a quick note of correction-

    “Most experts agree that an ideal world would be a drug free world” was referring to the experts interviewed in this film- I’m not trying to speak for all experts around the globe.

    I also consider myself to be an “expert” of sorts, and I full heartedly disagree

  17. Let’s say you could magically get rid of all the ‘bad’ drugs overnight.

    Where does THAT lead?

    It leads to paint huffing and other extremely toxic methods of getting high.

    People are going to get high. Make it safe for them to do so.

  18. Phikus @5 FTW.

    This was obviously a simple typo – the correct quote must be “Most experts agree that an ideal world would be a free drug world.”

  19. This is an organization called LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. These are thousands of LAW ENFORCEMENT members who want all drugs legalized, but regulated like alcohol. This is the only thing that makes sense


    After nearly four decades of fueling the U.S. policy of a war on drugs with over a trillion tax dollars and 37 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses, our confined population has quadrupled making building prisons the fastest growing industry in the United States. More than 2.2 million of our citizens are currently incarcerated and every year we arrest an additional 1.9 million more guaranteeing those prisons will be bursting at their seams. Every year we choose to continue this war will cost U.S. taxpayers another 69 billion dollars. Despite all the lives we have destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and far easier to get than they were 35 years ago at the beginning of the war on drugs. Meanwhile, people continue dying in our streets while drug barons and terrorists continue to grow richer than ever before. We would suggest that this scenario must be the very definition of a failed public policy. This madness must cease

  20. Taj@#6:
    My brain took your idea, tinkered with it, and handed me “what if recreational users of drugs such as cannabis, LSD, or ecstasy (to name a few) could somehow demonstrate, in a scientifically rigorous way, that their use does NOT constitute abuse, addiction, or a danger to themselves or others, without being thrown in jail for it?” Wouldn’t THAT be the best argument to legalize those substances? I feel fairly certain that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone who would qualify under those requirements. Find a group of researchers willing to keep it under wraps/ anonymous so no one goes to jail, follow the lives of these casual users, successfully demonstrate that these substances are causing no harm in their lives or the lives of people around them. Publish findings. Smack Congress in the face with abstract. Repeat until someone DOES something.

  21. Why oh why do the boing boing and sites make snarky comments about Fox News. It just gets old already. I guess Dick Cheney is Darth Vader too.

    Is it overly cynical to suggest that there is really very little difference between Democrat and Republican? Fox News and MSNBC?

  22. @#23 FT88

    “Is it overly cynical to suggest that there is really very little difference between Democrat and Republican?”

    Only if being overly cynical is a prerequisite for being a libertarian.

    Ultimately both parties want the same basic thing – control over the details of peoples lives. Sure, they seek to control somewhat different aspects of our lives, but any amount of control, over our personal affairs, is too much.

  23. The real problem in the USA is that the government doesn’t take the Constitution seriously any more.

    Show me where the Constitution grants the Federal Government the authority to even regulate substances IN THE FIRST PLACE. Because last time I checked, all powers not expressly and explicitly granted to the Federal government are impermissible, and are to be left to the States, or The People.

    Remember folks, the States created the Federal Government – NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

  24. Honestly, I’d love nothing more than to see the Union break away from the Federal Government, and reorganize into 3-5 Independent countries.

    At the very least, the States ought to stop collecting and passing along Federal taxes, and stop accepting Federal Funds.

  25. Nutbastard @27

    I would tend to agree with you, to a point… there’s certainly very few laws and policies that will work equally well in San Francisco and West Virginia, and its foolish to govern 300 million people as if we all had the same community standards… I don’t know if I agree we need to break up the Union… we just need to remind our legislators of the 9th and 10th amendments.

  26. TAJ @6

    Yes I do vote, but who in this UN drug delegation represent us? Are they elected? How do I inform my UN representative that I agree or disagree with their position? To whom are they accountable?

  27. @#28 Heruraha

    Exactly! The whole idea of giving the majority of the power to the States was a recognition of the fact that cultures split geographically, and that the States are SUPPOSED to have different sets of laws, based on what the population of that state deems prudent.

    This is why I would argue that Federal laws should apply only in those States that haven’t passed legislation that contradicts them. That is, in the absence of a law that says, “In our state, marijuana shall be legal”, Federal law would fill the void.

    One law to rule us all stifles progress – how are we supposed to find the solution that fits our State best if our hands are tied when it comes to conducting social experiments?

    What does it say about our Government that a majority of voters in California wants medical cannabis legal, asserting that we are prepared to deal with the consequences of such a policy – and the Feds come and raid the growers?

    The ONE good thing Obama has done so far is call of those dogs, but it isn’t good enough. In fact, there’s something inherently immoral about saying, “We’re keeping this law in effect, but don’t enforce it on these people because it makes us look like assholes”

    If enforcing a law makes you look like assholes, perhaps the law is unjust, and ought to be repealed, didja ever think of that, Mr. President?

  28. Muggs@21: Wow! Thanks for including that here.

    Nutbastard@31: Salient continuation / extension of a very good point. Let’s hope reason will prevail in good time.

  29. as i recall, prohibition was repealed in the depths of the depression (and a suddenly unemployed elliot ness went looking for another drug to make war on)-:

    perhaps the current financial crisis will enable a courageous leader* to balance the budget with the taxes on pot that are already on the books…

    *u know who i mean;-) he’s already taken on the american taliban over stem cell research…i think taking on the bastards who profit from the w.o.s.d., rather than being over-reaching, puts them all on the same side as rush, hoping for failure…and i recall a time when that was considered treason…what’s good4the goose, eh?

  30. Surely well all just have desktop fabricators that can output any drugs you want. Or maybe we’d engineer viruses or someth to make em

Comments are closed.