Opinion: The lost war on drugs

POSTED: 05/11/14 7:29 PM

The debate about the war on drugs took a new turn this week when the London School of Economics published a report with contributions from twenty economists – among them five Nobel Prize winners and the British Vice Prime Minister Clegg – that flatly states that the worldwide war on drugs is lost and that it has to be terminated. Tough measures cost more than $100 billion every year and the results are not pretty.

Prisons in the United States are filled beyond capacity, there is a highly repressive policy in large parts of Asia, extreme violence in Latin-America and political instability in Afghanistan and West-Africa.

The report furthermore claims that the war on drugs has contributed in a negative sense to the spread of HIV is Russia because alternatives for injection drugs like methadone are strictly prohibited there. A less repressive policy often works better, the economists say.

The report also makes a link to the so-called 100-percent controls at Schiphol airport that specifically targets flights from Curacao and St. Maarten. Since the introduction of these super tight controls in 2003, drugs imports through the port of Rotterdam and the West-African routes have strongly increased.

The economists say that this development does not only cast doubts over the Schiphol drugs policy but that this policy also forms an obstacle for the development of West-Africa.

The 100-percent controls were introduced to put a stop to the endless stream of drugs couriers from the Caribbean islands with bolitas in their stomach. The controls apply to flights from Curacao, St. Maarten, Suriname and Venezuela. Due to these controls the number of drug runners traveling through Schiphol decreased by 30 percent.

According to the report, this has had little effect on drugs imports to Europe. Drugs cartels altered their routes for instance through West-Africa. This way, the economists say, it has become only easier to smuggle drugs to Europe. Because countries like Ghana and Guinee-Buissau are relatively poor and corrupt, it is easy for the cartels to bribe agents. The result is that the drugs money slowly disrupts local authorities.

“The Dutch decision to close the drugs route from the Antilles has seriously impeded the West-African development,” the report states. “Globalization is not only a phenomenon to take notice of, it ought to be a fundamental part of political decision making.”

Last month the National Police estimated that a quarter up to half of all cocaine that is consumed in Europe arrives via the port of Rotterdam. According to criminologist Henk van de Bunt this is partly due to the Dutch drugs policy that is focusing too much on airports.

We figure that as long there are laws declaring drugs illegal, law enforcement will continue to dedicate resources to hunting down drugs transports. But there is no escaping the debate about the razor thin usefulness of these efforts. It started in Latin and Central America where government are more than fed up with drugs-related violence. Now it has spread to the London School of Economics – hardly a place where one expects to find a bunch of dopeheads writing reports to suit their own purposes.

In St. Maarten the debate had not even begun –but it should, if only because of the limited resources for crime fighting. Should we throw all our might at the drug dealers. Or should there be more efforts in the field of, say, human trafficking, the trafficking in women, domestic violence and so-called petty crimes like burglaries? Who will put this issue on the political agenda in the run up to the elections?


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