WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A high-level international commission declared the global “war on drugs” a failure and urged nations to consider legalizing cannabis and other drugs to undermine organized crime and protect their citizens’ health.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy called for a new approach to reducing drug abuse to replace the current strategy of strictly criminalizing drugs and incarcerating drug users while battling criminal cartels that control the drug trade.
“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” said the report issued by the commission on Thursday.
The study urges “experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs,” adding: “This recommendation applies especially to cannabis, but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalization and legal regulation.”
There are 250 million users of illicit drugs worldwide, with less than a 10th of them classified as dependent, and millions are involved in cultivation, production and distribution, according to U.N. estimates quoted in the report.
The study adds that decriminalization initiatives do not result in significant increases in drug use.
“Now is the time to break the taboo on discussion of all drug policy options, including alternatives to drug prohibition,” former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria said.
The 19-member panel includes current Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and former heads of state, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, British businessman Richard Branson and former Secretary of State George Shultz.
The commission said fundamental reforms were urgently needed in national and global drug control policies.
— Replace the criminalization and punishment of people who are drug users but do not hurt other people with the offer of health and treatment services to those who need them.
— Countries that continue to invest mostly in a law enforcement approach should focus on violent organized crime and drug traffickers.
— Promote alternative sentences for small-scale and first-time drug dealers as the majority of these people are not gangsters or organized criminals.
Other members of the panel include former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and former U.S. Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.
The report says “vast expenditure” had been spent on criminalization and repressive measures.
“Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use,” it adds.
The commission’s report adds that money spent by governments on futile efforts to reduce the supply of drugs and on jailing people on drug-related offenses could be better spent on different ways to reduce drug demand and the harm caused by drug abuse.
The full report is available here
Reporting by Will Dunham, additional reporting by Olesya Dmitracova in London; editing by Elizabeth Piper