In an op-ed piece Wednesday in the Paris newspaper Le Monde, Raymond Kendall, the former chief of the international law enforcement agency Interpol, called drug prohibition "obsolete and dangerous" and said its continuation represented a missed opportunity for reform. Prohibition has failed to protect the world from drugs, he said, and Europe must take the lead in reforming the drug laws, particularly at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in Vienna in 2008.
"Although I am not personally in favor of the legalization of drugs, the general feeling is that the opportunity has been missed to profoundly reform a dangerous and obsolete legal framework and replace it with a modern and effective policy," wrote Kendall, who headed the international police body from 1985 to 2000 and who remains its honorary head.
Drug prohibition simply does not work, Kendall pointed out. Despite decades of suppression efforts, "cannabis has become a common substance with high rates of consumption, sometimes more accessible than alcohol," he wrote, while the distribution of drugs like cocaine and ecstasy is steadily increasing despite the billions of dollars poured into the drug war.
Prohibitionist drug policies are no match for policies based on harm reduction, the former top cop argued, citing a recent British study that found every dollar spent on health care would save $3 that would have been spent in the criminal justice system. "With regards to heroin, the medicalization of dependent drug users and the prescription of pharmaceutical opiates have led to an 80% decrease in overdose deaths, noticeably limited the spread of epidemics and sharply cut the delinquency of drug addicts," Kendall noted. "The number of heroin addicts has also significantly decreased due to the recent advances in realistic detoxification processes, and because illegal drug supply has moved towards a 'medicalized' market."
Kendall regretted, however, that innovative harm reduction policies have too often been attacked by the international institutions that administer the US-influenced and "obsolete" UN conventions on drugs. Europe must take the lead in reforming the global prohibitionist regime in Vienna, Kendall concluded.