NEW YORK, June 25 (UPI) -- The United Nations, calling for more global investment in drug treatment and control, warned against legalizing narcotics.
The world body's Office on Drugs and Crime issued its appeal Wednesday, while noting a brutal struggle is under way among Central American drug cartels for a bigger slice of the $50 billion global cocaine market, U.N. News reported.
The agency's executive director, Antonio Maria Costa, said anti-narcotics laws may have helped create a huge black market for illicit drugs but that "a free market for drugs would unleash a drug epidemic."
He said the weak countries will be targeted by traffickers so long as demand persists.
"Proponents of legalization can't have it both ways," he said. "Legalization is not a magic wand that would suppress both mafias and drug abuse."
Costa also released the World Drug Report with Gil Kerlikowske, the new director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.
In West Africa, a major transportation hub for trafficking to Europe, a decline in seizures seems to reflect lower cocaine flows after five years of rapid growth, the report said.
In Afghanistan, where 93 percent of the world's opium is grown, cultivation declined by 19 percent in 2008, and in Colombia, accounting for half the world's cocaine, production fell 28 per cent in 2008, the report said.
"The more opium is seized in Afghanistan's neighborhood, the less heroin on the streets of Europe, and vice versa, the less heroin is consumed in the West, the more stability there will be in West Asia," Costa said.