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World Leaders Call Drug War a Failure

A consortium of past and present world leaders and other influential figures call the drug war a total failure and say it’s time for the US to stop treating drug users like criminals and to open up to debate about other ways to handle the drug problem.

Although it’s hardly the first time critics have voiced opposition to the ‘war on drugs’ the message is noteworthy and may be more difficult to ignore due to the influence and credibility of the panel members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, who include the sitting president of Greece George Papandreou, Mexico’s past president, Ernesto Zedillo, Columbia’s former president, Cesar Gaviria, Brazil’s past president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan, former US Federal Reserve Chairman, Pail Volcker and others.

In the report, the Commission members argue “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed…Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won."

Key policy recommendations from the 24 page report include:

  • Encouraging governments to experiment with models of decriminalization and legalization of drugs, especially marijuana, with the purpose of reducing the power and influence of organized crime and increasing the health and safety of the population as a whole
  • Ending the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others” and ending the propagation and reinforcement of untrue stereotypes and popular beliefs about drugs and drug users
  • Making sure effective treatment and harm reduction strategies are made available to people who use drugs. Effective treatments include methadone, buprenorphine and even heroin treatment for opiate abusers and effective harm reduction polices include needle exchange programs and supervised injection clinics.
  • Encouraging law enforcement to work on eradicating the violence and social degradation that can surround drug markets, not on eradicating the drugs
  • Making sure future drug polices are based on science, human rights, health and security

In a statement issued in response to the report, the White House defended the effectiveness of its war on drugs polices, saying, “Drug use in America is half of what it was 30 years ago, cocaine production in Colombia has dropped by almost two-thirds, and we’re successfully diverting thousands of nonviolent offenders into treatment instead of jail by supporting alternatives to incarceration.

Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe.”

According to the UN, however, drug use around the world in on the rise, and it has been for some time, despite the best efforts of militaries and law enforcement. From 1998 to 2008, the global use of opiates increased by 34.5%, the global use of cocaine went up by 27% and the global use of marijuana wet up by 8%.

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