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Group Of World Leaders Declare War On Drugs A Failure

June 2, 2011

Declaring the “war on drugs” a failure, a group of prominent former world leaders have asked that decriminalizing marijuana be strongly considered to help curb drug-related violence and social ills, reports the AFP news agency.

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” the members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy say in a report.

“Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President (Richard) Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”

And saying that restrictions on marijuana should be loosened, the report urged governments to “end the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.”

A commission – including former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso, former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria, Mexico’s former president Ernesto Zedillo and the ex-UN chief Kofi Annan – is presenting its report officially on Thursday in New York.

The group of prominent statesmen, many from countries on the frontline never-ending war on drugs, said purely punitive measures had in fact led to a situation where “the global scale of illegal drug markets — largely controlled by organized crime — has grown dramatically.”

“Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (especially cannabis) to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens,” the report urged.

“Decriminalization initiatives do not result in significant increases in drug use,” the report said, citing policies in Australia, Holland and Portugal.

The report also recommends treating drug use primarily as a health issue, instead of a criminal matter “Let’s start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis,” Cardoso said.

The report criticizes governments who claim the war on drugs is effective and making headway.

“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,” the report said.

The commission argues that governments should end criminalization of drug use, experiment with legal models that would undermine organized crime syndicates and offer health and treatment services for drug-users, BBC News is reporting.

It calls for drug policies based on methods empirically proven to reduce crime and promote economic and social development. The commission is especially critical of the US, saying it must abandon anti-crime approaches to drug policy and adopt strategies rooted in healthcare and human rights.

“We hope this country (the US) at least starts to think there are alternatives,” said former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria. “We don’t see the US evolving in a way that is compatible with our (countries’) long-term interests.”

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