Uruguayan President Jose Mujica has certainly gotten attention on the world stage since his country legalized marijuana commerce last week, and not all of it has been favorable. The United Nations bureaucrats charged with maintaining adherence to global drug prohibition have been quick to criticize, and now Mujica and his wife, Uruguayan Senator Lucio Topolansky, have fired back.
Two of the three UN drug control bureaucracies, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) came out with quick criticisms of the Uruguayan move, with UNODC head Yuri Fedotov calling the decision to legalize marijuana there "unfortunate" in a statement two days after the vote.
But it was the INCB that leveled the harshest criticisms, and it was the INCB that drew the barbed retorts from Montevideo's first couple.
"Uruguay is breaking international conventions on drug control with the cannabis legislation approved by its congress," the INCB complained in a press release last Wednesday. The INCB qualified itself as "surprised" that Uruguay had "knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed legal provisions of the treaty."
In the statement under the signature of INCB head Raymond Yans, the INCB also "regrets that the government of Uruguay did not respond to INCB to engage in a dialogue prior to further consideration of the law."
"Tell that old man to stop lying," Mujica retorted in an interview Saturday with Uruguay’s Canal 4. "Let him come to Uruguay and meet me whenever he wishes… Anybody can meet and talk to me, and whoever says he couldn't meet with me tells lies, blatant lies. Because he sits in a comfortable international platform, he believes he can say whatever nonsense," he added.
Mujica also noted the INCB's relative quiescence before the legalization of marijuana in two US states and accused him of having double standards. "Does he have different rules: one for Uruguay and other for the world’s strong countries?” he asked pointedly.
Neither was Sen. Topolansky one to sit quietly by while her husband was under attack.
"Who is this fellow that likes to call names to countries?" she said of Yans. "I think he crossed the line, but anyhow, I believe that he has had problems with other countries, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and they will be meeting him sometime in March."
Topolansky was presumably referring to recently leaked documents revealing deep divisions on what to do about drug policy among UN members, where a number of countries have asked that the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs be opened to discussion of paradigm-shifting reforms.
It's not as easy being the head of a UN anti-drug bureaucracy as it used to be.
– Article originally from Stop the Drug War, used with permission.