If you care about the climate crisis, fight to legalise drugs

Annie Spratt / Unsplash


If you care about the climate crisis, fight to legalise drugs

21 August 2023
JS Rafaeli
Filter Mag

On June 26, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released its annual report on the illicit drug trade. The headline is that despite millions of people killed, incarcerated and impoverished, and trillions of dollars spent on the global drug war, people are using more illicit drugs than ever.

That drug prohibition is an expensive, inhumane failure shouldn’t be news to anyone. However, this report did offer something new. For the first time, the UNODC accompanied its research with a booklet focusing on the effects of “environmental crime”—meaning, damage inflicted on ecosystems by organised drug trafficking groups—in the Amazon rainforest.

This builds on what is apparently a growing concern at the UNODC. Last year, the agency released its first specific report on “environmental crime,” and we are seeing increasingly high-profile figures speaking out about it.

However, experts are warning that this latest UNODC report, along with much of the discourse around these issues, fundamentally misses the point in very dangerous ways.

“For many people, when they think of drugs and the environment, the picture is of rainforests being cleared to grow coca plants, and illicit labs dumping chemicals into rivers—but it’s actually much more complicated,” Kendra McSweeney told Filter.