By Sam Branson
It's over four decades since US President Richard Nixon declared a so-called 'War on Drugs' in the hopes that military action and intervention would help bring an end to the illegal drug trade. As the world knows President Nixon's vision and those who supported him have failed. Here's why it failed, why we all need to get on board and lobby governments for reform, and most importantly of all why this 'war on drugs' matters to you.
It matters quite simply because the war on drugs hasn't worked. Thousands of lives have been lost or ruined and it's devastating societies all across the globe. We need to break the taboo in the way that we and governments around the world view current drug laws and work towards fundamental, long-term and realistic global drug control policies.That's why my production company, Sundog Pictures, chose to make our first film 'Breaking the Taboo' on this issue.
Before we go any further, I want to let the facts speak for themselves. Over 40 years later, the UN estimates that the illegal drug trade is worth more than $320bn dollars. At the peak of his power, Pablo Escobarʼs cartel was smuggling 15 tonnes of cocaine a day into the US. Forbes magazine declared him to be the seventh richest man in the world, worth an estimated $25billion. Added to the astounding financial figures of this 'war on drugs' is the harsh reality of the violence and loss of life which come with it. The US and Colombian government's struggle against Escobar turned Colombia into the murder capital of the world with over 52,000 violent deaths in two years. In the last six years 47,000 lives have been lost in Mexico due to the 'war on drugs.'
We should all look at Portugal as an excellent example of how we should act in regards to drug policy reform and the decriminalisation of drugs. Portugal has led the way in seeking to balance public health concerns with opposition to drug legalisation. The prevalence rates for cocaine use in Portugal are barely one-fifth of European countries such as the United Kingdom and Spain, and as we've seen in the US recently 18 states and DC have enacted laws to legalise medical marijuana. Change is beginning. Consider this: in 2008, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimated that regulating and taxing drugs would inject over $76 billion dollars a year into the US economy alone. Wouldn't that be an incredible economic boost, especially when governments are facing gross fiscal problems?
One organisation that is leading the catalyst for change is the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP). I have become very familiar with their work having made the film, also with my father on their board and very passionate about their vision. The purpose of the GCDP is to provoke informed, evidence-based discussion about humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies. And they should know. The GCDP includes seven former Presidents, [including from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and the United States], a former UN Secretary General, two former Prime Ministers and a former US Secretary of State. Their reach is global and so is this new approach to drug policy reform.
Since 'Breaking the Taboo' premiered nearly six months ago, more than a million people have seen it, and we are hosting global screenings and discussions around the world on this issue. We've screened the film everywhere from the House of Commons in London to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Upcoming events and screenings are planned in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, Vilnius, Guatemala and Malaysia. The next screening and panel discussion will be in in St Paul, MN on July 28th at the Landmark Center. We are proud to have the support of the GCDP and the Drug Policy Alliance in the United States, who are both powerful lobbyists for ongoing drug reform.
We have collected over 675,000 signatures of support for new global drug laws, and I would ask you to support us too. You can stream the film in English or Spanish on Hulu in the US or download from iTunes in the rest of the world. Please visit our website and learn why drug reform is needed and why we all need to break the taboo by bringing an end to the 'war on drugs' and a new beginning for the world's approach to drugs policy. Please go to Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtags #breakthetaboo and #warondrugs to help bring about the change needed for a healthy and less violent world.