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UN institute reprimands Latin American countries for decriminalizing drugs

UN takes conservative line against Latin America's growing drug reform movement.

Some international watchdogs say that with such criticism, the U.N. board is overstepping its mandate, which is to uphold the U.N. conventions rather than comment on political debates.

“They are making comments based on conservative moral perceptions and not on legal or medical considerations,” said Pien Metaal, of the Drugs and Democracy Program at the Holland-based Transnational Institute.

While the United States has historically pushed for the war on drugs at the U.N., other powers are now bringing conservative ideas to the table, Metaal said.

Among the current narcotics board members are representatives of the Russian Federation, China and Nigeria, which all support hard-line prohibitionist policies toward narcotics.

Meanwhile, the United States itself is beginning to take a more flexible line, with a growing number of states decriminalizing the possession of marijuana and legalizing the drug for medical sales.

In November, Californians will vote on a motion to fully legalize marijuana. If approved, such a law would put California at legal odds with the narcotics board.

American drug reform activists say that the United Nations needs to overhaul its drug policy institutions so the world can move forward on the issue.

“These kind of reports show the INCB is just a profoundly political organization,” said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance. “The board needs to be abolished.”