Celebrity campaign backing drug legalisation was based on 'flawed' figures, says UN
It won the support of celebrities and dignitaries with its call for drugs to be decriminalised.
But a highly influential report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy used incorrect figures, it was revealed yesterday. The group, headed by major names including former UN chief Kofi Annan and Sir Richard Branson, published a study claiming that drug use around the world has soared over the past decade.
Its call for an end to the war on drugs was taken up by celebrities including Dame Judi Dench, Julie Christie and Sting. Last weekend, Liberal Democrat leaders also cited it as their conference demanded measures to make drug possession legal in Britain.
However, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said yesterday that the claims were based on ‘flawed methodology’ and were ‘not correct’. Far from increasing at a rapid rate, worldwide use of heroin and cocaine has remained stable and cannabis use is likely to have dropped, it argued.
The Global Commission said that between 1998 and 2008, worldwide use of heroin and other opiates went up by a third, cocaine use by more than a quarter, and cannabis use by 8.5 per cent.
The Commission is a self-appointed body whose members include Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, former presidents of Colombia and Mexico, and several once highly-placed U.S. politicians such as former Secretary of State George Shultz.
Its report, published in June, said the war on drugs should be abandoned and illegal drugs should be decriminalised and regulated.
But errors behind it were exposed by researcher Kathy Gyngell of the centre-right Centre for Policy Studies think-tank. Mrs Gyngell asked UNODC to analyse the figures the Commission provided.
It found that the Commission’s figures – unsourced in its report – had been based on a misreading of statistics published by the UN agency.
Mrs Gyngell said: ‘Our worst fears as to the provenance and reliability of the Global Commission’s figures have been confirmed. The Commission’s figures are not just overblown, they are contrived and misleading.’