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Ending the Drugs Wars
In 1909, the United States convened a 13-nation meeting in Shanghai, China, to plot a response to the large amounts of opiates circulating around the globe. It was at this meeting—chaired by clergy, heavy in morality and lacking empirical evidence—that the idea of eradicating global drug abuse was first tabled. A 1912 follow-up meeting took place at The Hague and produced the International Opium Convention—the world’s first international drug control policy.
Last week, the London School of Economics (LSE) published the Ending the Drugs Wars Report. Signed by five Nobel Prize winners in economics, it explains how this beginning and the intervening years leading to 1961 created a highly imperfect regulatory system to stop the supply of drugs.
After 1961 these prohibitionist ideas—still immune from empirical evidence—became a political commonplace at the United Nations (UN) and gave birth to the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This led to policy formations claiming the impossible: that with enforcement and the diffusion of police measures internationally, a 3,000-year human habit could be retitled an “illicit market” and tamed.
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