Readers of the Los Angeles Times last week received some unexpected news about a major shift in the attitude of the United Nations towards the decriminalization of cannabis. According to the paper, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was set to announce a more tolerant approach at a major meeting in New York City. But although the meeting was real, the policy shift was not. The announcement was a hoax, and pointedly timed for 20 April (‘4/20’), a day on which cannabis users celebrate and promote their choice. The scam even included a well-constructed fake press release that quoted the (real) UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov as saying: “The science increasingly supports decriminalization and harm reduction over proscriptive, fear-based approaches.”
For those who advocate drug-law reform — a group that includes a sizeable number of scientists — the truth was a lot less encouraging. The comments that Fedotov made at last week’s UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) were certainly less quotable. In a tweet he noted: “#UNGASS outcome doc reaffirms joint responses to world drug problem based on agreed frameworks, #sharedresponsibility, intl cooperation”.
Despite hopes ahead of the meeting that nations would step back from the ‘war on drugs’ rhetoric that has defined international policy — and science — for decades, instead the UN blandly reformatted the existing status quo. Essentially, the message is still: ‘drugs are bad’.
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