Kofi Annan’s legacy to the drug policy reform movement - a clarion call for legalisation and regulation


Transform was deeply saddened to note the passing of Kofi Annan (8 April 1938 – 18 August 2018), former Secretary General of the UN (1997 - 2006), and former Commissioner on the Global Commission for Drug Policy Reform.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.


In February 2016 Mr Annan became the highest profile global leader to make a clear call to end the global drug war. In an op-ed for Der Spiegel, under the headline: ‘Lift the Ban!

Kofi Annan on Why It's Time To Legalize Drugs’

Mr Annan said:

“Drugs are dangerous, but current narcotics policies are an even bigger threat because punishment is given a greater priority than health and human rights. It's time for regulations that put lives and safety first.”


This quote is taken from the op-ed:


“Legal Regulation Protects Health

Initial trends show us that where cannabis has been legalized, there has been no explosion in drug use or drug-related crime. The size of the black market has been reduced and thousands of young people have been spared criminal records. But a regulated market is not a free market. We need to carefully think through what needs regulating, and what does not. While most cannabis use is occasional, moderate and not associated with significant problems, it is nonetheless precisely because of its potential risks that it needs to be regulated.

And therefore, the fourth and final step is to recognize that drugs must be regulated precisely because they are risky. It is time to acknowledge that drugs are infinitely more dangerous if they are left solely in the hands of criminals who have no concerns about health and safety. Legal regulation protects health. Consumers need to be aware of what they are taking and have clear information on health risks and how to minimize them. Governments need to be able to regulate vendors and outlets according to how much harm a drug can cause. The most risky drugs should never be available "over the counter" but only via medical prescription for people registered as dependent users, as is already happening in Switzerland.”


It is the foresight and imagination of people like Kofi Annan, together with their willingness to put their personal reputations on the line that have helped to pave the way for others to step up and call for legalisation and regulation.


His legacy is one that will live on through those that have been inspired to follow his lead.  Eventually those calls will bring an end to the global drug war and its replacement with a global system of regulation and control that will protect the most marginalised and bring lasting peace.