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A New Convention. Amanda Feilding, Beckley Foundation. Flesh of the gods: Drugs and the Divine. ‘Flesh of the gods’ (Psilocybin) ‘Sacred medicine’ (Peyote) ‘The divine food’ ( Qat , Ancient Egyptians) ‘Vine of the soul’ ( Ayahuasca ) ‘The sacred leaf’ (Coca)

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A New Convention

Amanda Feilding, Beckley Foundation


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Flesh of the gods: Drugs and the Divine

  • ‘Flesh of the gods’ (Psilocybin)

  • ‘Sacred medicine’ (Peyote)

  • ‘The divine food’ (Qat, Ancient Egyptians)

  • ‘Vine of the soul’ (Ayahuasca)

  • ‘The sacred leaf’ (Coca)

  • ‘Food of the gods’ (Cannabis, early Indians)


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Birth of Drug Control Conventions

  • 1909 International Opium Commission

  • 1912 Hague Opium Convention

  • 1925 International Opium Convention

  • 1936 Geneva Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs

  • 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

  • 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances

  • 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances


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Beginnings of the Prohibitionist Approach: The 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

  • Signed by 73 countries

  • Designed to eradicate coca, opium and cannabis: i)production and cultivation;

    ii) trade and distribution

    iii) possession and consumption

  • At the heart of global criminalising approach

  • Drafted and signed in an entirely different social and political context from today


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Negative Consequences

  • This approach has:

    i) generated a vast criminal underworld;

    ii) undermined public health, human rights, international security and development;

    iii) wasted billions of pounds each year on programmes of eradication and incarceration.

  • A major proportion of drug-related harms is caused directly by the policy of prohibition, rather than by the drugs themselves.


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Negative Consequences...

  • It has created a criminal market of $320 billion a year, destabilising countries through violence & corruption.

  • Since 2006, over 35,000 killed within Mexico’s War on Drugs.

  • Despite the US & UK spending over $76 billion a year fighting the Taliban and their drug operations, 90% of UK illegal heroin remains Afghan. The narcotics trade in Afghanistan is worth over $4 billion a year.

  • It has produced the ‘balloon effect’, eg. South-East Asia and the Andes.


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Imprisonment and Discrimination

  • 10 million in prison worldwide for drugs.

  • In 2009 the US had 1.6 million drug-related offences, of which 1.35 million were for drug possession alone. Over 850,000 were arrested for marijuana (most for mere possession).

  • African Americans compromise 14% of regular drug users in the US, BUT 37% of those arrested for drug offences and 57% of those incarcerated for drug crimes.


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Evaluation

  • Lack of any evaluation in UN, USA etc.

  • NGOs such as the Beckley Foundation and TNI started research into evaluation and published results; pressurising the UN to do the same.

  • It is impossible to estimate accurately the costs of the War on Drugs.


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Cannabis: The Elephant in the Room

  • Represents 80% of all drug-related crime

  • 4.4% of the world’s population use cannabis, whereas only 1% use all other illegal drugs combined

  • Without cannabis to uphold it, the War on Drugs would collapse

  • The Beckley Foundation Global Cannabis Commission Report


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Time for Change

  • According to all indices the War on Drugs has failed.

  • It is time to rethink our priorities:

  • To have new evidence-based policies based on harm-reduction and health.

  • It is time to count the costs and consider new approaches


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