Turning back time
Amsterdam authorities try rolling back the country's successful experiment in decriminalization
Published: June 22, 2011
There has been a long string of officially commissioned studies that have basically reached the same conclusion, but this international commission includes "four former presidents, United Nations dignitaries, authors and intellectuals, health and security officials, NGO directors and entrepreneurs."
The run-up to the War on Drugs began 50 years ago, in 1961, when the United Nations initiated the UN Single Drug Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Ten years later, on June 17, 1971, Richard Nixon declared: "America's public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out ... worldwide offensive."
"So began a war," Charles M. Blow wrote in The New York Times, "that has waxed and waned, sputtered and sprinted, until it became an unmitigated disaster, an abomination of justice and a self-perpetuating, trillion-dollar economy of wasted human capital, ruined lives and decimated communities ... one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in American history: The war on drugs."
Since 1971, more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses. And, according to UN estimates, between 1998 and 2008, annual consumption has grown by 34.5 percent for opiates, 27 percent for cocaine and 8.5 percent for cannabis, whose users worldwide number 160 million.
That's an awful lot of us, and maybe our screams of pain as victims of the War on Drugs are beginning to be heard and maybe even heeded. It's about time!
—420 Café, Amsterdam
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