Global Commission says War on Drugs has failed

This week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a 24-page paper arguing that the “global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

The report is just the latest instance of public officials calling for comprehensive reform of repressive drug policies, including two presidential candidates for the U.S. Republican Party’s nomination, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Congressman Ron Paul.

The 19-member panel included several big names like former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, former presidents of Mexico, Brazil, and Columbia, U.K. business mogul Richard Branson, and former White House administration offical George P. Schultz, who ironically held cabinet level positions in the Reagan and Nixon administrations, both known for playing a major role in expanding the War on Drugs.

Especially telling about the commission and its findings is how many of its 19 members hold titles that include the word “former,” indicating that policy makers might be ahead of the public when it comes to liberalizing drug laws, as California learned after a proposition to legalize and tax cannabis failed at the ballot box this past November. The commission’s own report reinforces this view where it says:

“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.”

In its report, the commission recommends that governments rethink their treatment of non-violent drug users and treat their drug use as a public health problem, not a criminal one, using empirically validated legal models and public policy approaches that have been shown to reduce drug use and even undermine the organized criminal elements that profit from the lucrative black market created by repressive drug policies.

The panel’s report on the “devastating consequences” of the War on Drugs could not have been more timely, as it was released less than a week after a viral YouTube video shocked over a million viewers with its footage of a kindergarten teacher in Mexico singing to calm her young students as they lay flat on the ground amid the sounds of a terrifying gunfight just outside the classroom windows.  The teacher, 33-year-old Martha Rivera Alanis, received an award this week for her bravery from a Mexican state that has been plagued by a recent wave of drug-related violence as different and well-armed organized crime syndicates battle over turf and drug routes. 

In addition to providing better treatment for victims of drug addiction, it is violent episodes like these that the global commission seeks to avoid with smarter drug policies and an end to the War on Drugs.