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War on Drugs Has Failed, Declares High-Profile Commission

By Kelly Miller Witness for Peace Intern

Those of you who follow Witness for Peace’s work know that the drug war has failed to reduce drug production and the violence associated with drug trafficking. For over a decade, Witness for Peace has called for an end to the failed drug war policies of militarization and incarceration and for a more humane drug policy at home and abroad.

Now, in a stunning move, a high-profile group of former presidents, diplomats and economists are calling for a dramatic change in how countries deal with drugs.

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” declared the Global Commission on Drug Policy in their just-released report on the global drug war. The commission also stated that “reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”

Notable members of the commission include former Secretary of State George Shultz; former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana; former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan; three former Latin American presidents from Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, respectively; the former president of Switzerland and the current prime minister of Greece, among others.

Several important commission findings include that:

  1. Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption;

  2. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost constantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers;

  3. Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use;

  4. Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.

The commission also shared several recommendations, including to:

  1. End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others;

  2. Challenge rather than reinforce common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy is finally saying what we have known for a long time: current drug policy is a failure. Hopefully the report will provide policymakers with much-needed encouragement to scratch the war on drugs and craft a new drug policy that effectively minimizes the harmful realities of drug production, transport and consumption both here in the United States as well as abroad.

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