Children should have the right to grow up in a politician-free world

That ain’t gonna happen, either.

The World Federation Against Drugs and the Swedish Society for Sobriety and Social Upbringing has published a rather massive (134 page) volume titled: The Protection of Children from Illicit Drugs – A Minimum Human Rights Standard — A Child-Centered vs. a User-Centered Drug Policy by Stephan Dahlgren & Roxana Stere.

Robert DuPont says “This book is a major landmark in human rights and international drug policy.” (Of course, if you have to turn to hack Robert DuPont for a book review, you’re in trouble.)

This rather interminable paper goes on and on — first in parsing various U.N. documents to support the position that the human rights of the child are the paramount consideration and that the various agreements don’t just mean that children should be protected from using dangerous drug themselves, but that they should essentially be protected from any societal use of those drugs deemed “illicit.” This justifies, to the authors, today’s prohhibition efforts.

The book then goes on to rail against the various harm reduction efforts world-wide, which it mostly dismisses as efforts to paint the drug user as a victim.

Where is really gets into the crux of the matter, however, is when they talk about the drug-free society.

The authors acknowledge that the notion of a drug-free society has been ridiculed as completly unrealistic and utopian. But that doesn’t bother them:

Nevertheless, the achievement of a “drug- free society” is an aspiration and the only reasonable one in the context of the present international legal framework.

As long as the UN drug conventions impose the limitation “exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs”; CRC Article 33 requests States Parties “to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances” and International Labour Orga- nization Convention 182 defines “the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and traf- ficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties” as one of the worst forms of child labour, a “drug-free world” is the appropriate goal.

But of course, it does matter whether a drug-free society is a utopian ideal.

If a drug-free society is realistic and achievable through prohibition, then a prohibition regime could theoretically protect children from being exposed to illicit drugs, illicit drug use, and trafficking.

However, we know that a drug-free society is as impossible as a sex-free society. We also know that prohibition does little (or nothing) to
reduce illicit drug use (and any harms that may come from that use). Additionally, prohibition causes a laundry list of additional harms that can damage children, including:

  • Empowering criminals, who have no compunction about selling to children, to control the sale of illicit drugs
  • Breaking up and destroying families through excessive incarceration
  • Turning children around the world into agents of drug trafficking organizations, due to the profitability of the black market and the fact that prohibition makes it advantageous to use children

It is admirable that the authors and the groups they represent care about the children, but it would be better if they actually promoted policy that helped children, rather than destroying the lives of children while chasing some utopian fantasy.

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