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International Consensus Builds: The War on Drugs Is a Fiasco

By: Adam Dubove - @dubdam - Sep 12, 2014, 10:28 am

EspañolThe struggle for drug-policy reform is moving toward a dramatic shift, thanks to the efforts of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP). This group of high-profile world leaders have thrust the debate onto front pages around the world.

In a new report titled, “Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work,” the GCDP presents an objective analysis of the current state of international drug enforcement and prevention measures. Divided into six sections, it reveals the consequences of the so-called war on drugs, which they describe as “a failure in its own terms” and “threatening public health and safety.”

The authors contend that current drug enforcement efforts are “fuelling crime and enriching criminals” and “undermining human rights and fostering discrimination,” while “wasting billions” in the process.

At the 1988 UN General Assembly Special Session, politicians from around the world established the lofty goal of “a world free of drugs.” They set fanciful targets for the production and control of illegal substances.

However, as the new report maintains: “The international community is further away than ever from realizing a ‘drug free world.’ Global drug production, supply, and use continue to rise despite increasing resources being directed towards enforcement.”

The report argues against drug prohibition and promotes “responsible regulation” of controlled substances. One of the most widely recognized effects of prohibition is the increased rate of imprisonment, and the report’s authors also draw attention to the discriminatory nature of drug enforcement:

Globally, more women are imprisoned for drug offenses than for any other crime. One in four women in prisons across Europe and Central Asia are incarcerated for drug offences, while rates in many Latin American countries, such as Argentina (68.2 per cent), Costa Rica (70 per cent), and Peru (66.38 per cent), are even higher.

The report is signed by many former presidents, including Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico), César Gaviria (Colombia), and Ricardo Lagos (Chile), among others.

Additional prominent signatories include former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan, British entrepreneur Richard Branson, and Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa.

“The facts speak for themselves. It is time to change course,” said Annan — who is also president of the Kofi Annan Foundation and a member of the West Africa Commission on Drugs.

Annan continues, “We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective treatment. This has not only led to overcrowded jails, but also to severe health and social problems.”

According to Virgin founder Richard Branson, “much can be learned from the successes and failures in regulating alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical drugs, and other products and activities that pose health risks to individuals and societies.”

Drug Policy Review in 2016

The GCPD report calls for past reform proposals to be taken into consideration at the 2016 UN General Assembly. They want that gathering to define the future of drug policy, and repair the damage caused by 40 years of misguided regulation.

Their proposal, of regulation rather than prohibition, is nothing new. As noted by GCDP, in recent years an increasing number of countries have opted for more rational drug policies: “The policy rework of the last few years prognosticate a welcoming climate for the 2016 summit.”

Las reformas de los últimos años auguran un panorama auspicioso para la conferencia de 2016, según la CGDP. (CGDP)
The interactive map from CGPD shows the progress made recently in drug policy reform and an end to the war on drugs around the world. This is an encouraging sign for the success expected at the UN Assembly in 2016. (CGPD)

Today, the path towards legalization is clear, although international consensus on the issue might not come as easily as the GCDP predicts. Change, as history has proved, will be led by a handful of countries that will defy the established order — setting an example for others to follow.

Soon the nefarious experiment will come to an end.

Adam Dubove Adam Dubove

Adam Dubove is a journalist, co-host of The Titanic's Violinists radio show, and the secretary of the Amagi Institute. Follow him on Twitter: @dubdam, and read his blog: Diario de un Drapetómano.