Hard News by Russell Brown

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Dreams of New York

Matters of Substance has published my report on the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem – UNGASS 2016 – and it might at first glance appear to be a rather depressing read.

After all, this is a meeting that not only failed to deliver on the overwhelming desire for reform of the global drug control system expressed by the UN's own agencies and (to varying degrees) by the large majority of member nations, it's a United Nations meeting that failed to even condemn the death penalty for drug offences.

But there's a fairly strong argument for saying that the success of UNGASS lay in that very failure. No one can sensibly argue now that there is a global consensus on the UN drug conventions. No nation really need hold those conventions above the wellbeing of its own people. And we're seeing that reality unfold as the Canadadian government begins to consider how it will deliver on its election promise of a legalised, regulated marijuana market.

Drug law reform, of course, extends far beyond freeing the weed. It is increasingly, and correctly, being talked about in the context of human rights and development. For all the disppointments of New York, an interesting time has begun. The unfortunate post-consensus reality is that change may be a long time coming for the people of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the other handful of hardline countries where so many human beings live.

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