Legalizing narcotics could lead to increased drug use and more deaths, the U.N. anti-drugs chief said on Monday, challenging a global commission's recommendation that the use of some drugs like cannabis be legally regulated.
In a report last month, the non-governmental Global Commission on Drug Policy advised allowing "experiments in legally regulatingmarketsin currently illicit drugs" including cannabis and certain psychoactive substances.
"New experiments are needed in allowing legal but restricted access to drugs that are now only available illegally," concluded the panel, chaired by Brazilian ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and including former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.
But Yury Fedotov, head of the Vienna-basedUnited NationsOffice on Drugs and Crime, told a news conference, "I believe that such experimentation certainly will make drugs more available and [cheaper]."
He added: "It means that we may face increased consumption of psychoactive substances which may result in more death and more suffering of individuals (and) their families."
Domestically, Washington state and Colorado have legalized the sale of cannabis by licensed shops, but federal laws prohibiting it are still in place.The U.N. office said in a June report that more Americans are using cannabis as the perception of health risk declines, suggesting liberalization may further increase its use.