The United Nations has attacked moves towards liberalizing drug laws in its annual narcotics control report, arguing such measures would have grave social and economic costs without significantly undermining organized crime.
In the latest International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) report, the UN strongly condemned measures legalizing marijuana and attacked the arguments put forward by advocates for drug law reform.
The board argues that legalizing drugs will not significantly impact the revenues of organized crime groups, as such organizations have demonstrated a capacity to make money off legal products such as black market cigarettes.
It also stated that the cost savings of no longer enforcing drug laws would not be significant as an increase in drug use would lead to more social problems requiring the intervention of law enforcement, giving as an example the fact that millions of people a year are arrested for alcohol related crimes.
The report also claims that the economic costs of healthcare related to drug use and the costs of regulating the industry may outweigh savings in other areas and income from tax revenues.
The board particularly criticized moves in the United States and Uruguay to legalize marijuana, with President Raymond Yans calling it “a grave danger to public health and well-being.”
In the report, it cites “emerging data” from Colorado, which shows that since the introduction of a medical marijuana program, car accidents involving marijuana, teenagers seeking treatment for marijuana, and people testing positive for marijuana on drug tests have all increased.
InSight Crime Analysis
Some of the arguments offered by the INCB stand as a warning to those that argue for drug legalization as a “magic bullet” solution to issues caused by drugs and the drug trade. However, this does not mean they successfully dismantle the case for legalization.
For example, it is undoubtedly true that legalizing the drug trade will not make organized crime disappear, as criminal organizations have long demonstrated an ability to adapt and diversify revenue streams. However, by removing their main source of income, the stranglehold of these groups on certain countries will be loosened and their power to corrupt through their vast wealth would be seriously undermined.
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Other arguments made by the board are far more debatable. For example, the cost of alcohol related policing is directly related to the effects of alcohol and to argue that abuse of completely different drugs would cause similar types of crime is highly dubious. It also seems a false comparison to claim the increase in costs of policing drug abuse would cancel out the savings from ending efforts to tackle drug trafficking, as it is comparing local, street level policing to transnational, high-tech, billion dollar interdiction efforts.