The global drug prohibition regime: prospects for stability and change in an increasingly less prohibitionist world

Abstract

In this article, we trace the operations of power, i.e., how different forms of power combine, compete and resist each other in the emergence, later evolution and the present dynamic of the international drug control regime (IDCR). We confirm the assumption that the prohibition in the IDCR, as well as other features of the system, has been the result of a series of political decisions taken by a specific group of powerful states at the center of global capitalist economy, and the USA as the system hegemon above all. The regime, we argue, however also betrays powerful inertia factors associated with institutional, structural and productive types of power that pose an obstacle to its transformation even when, in some respects, there exists convincing evidence that suggests other approaches would be more effective and less costly. In view of the current challenge to the IDCR’s core prohibitionist rationality which we align with an evolutionary change in the operation of compulsory power, in the conclusion we discuss how a change to the status quo may be steered to avoid the regime’s gradual obliteration.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Regarding ‘modification’ (i.e., relocation of controlled substances in the Schedules), the conventions require the World Health Organization (WHO) or any State party to make a proposal of change, which must be supported by relevant information and scientific evidence. In order to make this relocation effective, the approval of the majority of the 53 CND members is required by the Single Convention (for narcotic substances), and two-thirds of the votes in the case of the 1971 Convention (for psychotropics). In addition, if this majority was reached, any State could request the decision to be reviewed by the ECOSOC, where a new majority would be needed to approve the recommendation, and whose decision would be definitive (Article 3.8 of the Single Convention). As far as treaties’ amendments are concerned, any one State party can object to the proposal which then passes to ECOSOC (with the exception in the 1988 Convention amendment procedure) which can decide to organize a conference of parties to address the issue.

  2. 2.

    See Article 9 of the Single Convention, Article 19 of the 1971 Convention and Article 22 of the 1988 Convention.

  3. 3.

    Just around US$ 274 million (51.4% of the total) were intended to finance the drug program. See information available at www.unodc.org/unodc/en/donors/index.html.

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Acknowledgements

The research conducted for the purposes of this article was supported by the Czech Science Foundation Grant 13-26485S Global Prohibition Regimes: Theoretical Refinement and Empirical Analysis.

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Correspondence to Ondrej Ditrych.

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Sanchéz-Avilés, C., Ditrych, O. The global drug prohibition regime: prospects for stability and change in an increasingly less prohibitionist world. Int Polit 55, 463–481 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-017-0081-5

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Keywords

  • Illicit drugs
  • International drug control regime
  • United Nations
  • International Narcotics Control Board
  • Commission on Narcotic Drugs
  • Power
  • Hegemony
  • Sovereignty
  • Biopolitics
  • Dispositif