By Rishi Iyengar
October 20, 2015

A U.N. document calling for the worldwide decriminalization of all narcotics used for personal consumption, does not have official backing of the organization, the BBC reports.

A briefing paper by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) — which recommended that countries consider “decriminalizing drug and possession for personal consumption” — reportedly came under pressure from at least one U.N. member nation.

The paper, prepared by Dr. Monica Beg, the head of the UNODC’s HIV/AIDS section in Vienna, for discussion at a forthcoming conference, had not received official organizational backing, the BBC quoted multiple sources within the U.N. as saying. One representative said that Beg was merely “a middle-ranking official” expressing her professional perspective.

The document itself, news of which was prematurely released by Virgin Group founder and drug-reform advocate Richard Branson, says it “clarifies the position of UNODC” in informing country responses to drugs, “to promote a health and human-rights approach to drug policy.”

The vast majority of U.N. member countries still consider drug use and possession criminal offenses punishable by varying fines and durations of imprisonment, which the UNODC paper calls a “disproportionate response” leading to larger societal issues.

“Treating drug use for nonmedical purposes and possession for personal consumption as criminal offenses has contributed to public-health problems and induced negative consequences for safety, security, and human rights,” the document adds.

A UNODC spokesperson had earlier refuted media reports about the “nature and intent” of the document based on Branson’s statement, as well as the rumored pressure for its withdrawal.

“The briefing paper on decriminalization mentioned in many of today’s media reports, and intended for dissemination and discussion at a conference in Kuala Lumpur, is neither a final nor formal document from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, and cannot be read as a statement of UNODC policy,” the spokesperson, David Dadge, said in a statement.

“UNODC emphatically denies reports that there has been pressure on UNODC to withdraw the document. But, it is not possible to withdraw what is not yet ready,” he added.

Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com.

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