The global war on drugs has failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world, argues a new report released today[pdf].
"In 40 years of following drug policy, this is probably the most powerful document I've seen, given the prestigious make-up of the Commission and the firmness of its findings," said Richard Kennedy from Americans for Safe Access
"The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world," the members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy say in a report.
"Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after president (Richard) Nixon launched the US government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.
"Decriminalisation initiatives do not result in significant increases in drug use," the report says, citing policies in Australia, The Netherlands and Portugal.
Restrictions on marijuana should be loosened, and governments should "end the criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others", the report says.
The 19-member commission includes former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former U.S. official George P. Schultz, who held cabinet posts under U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Others include former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, U.K. business mogul Richard Branson and the current prime minister of Greece.
The commission is funded by Richard Branson of Virgin Group and George Soros's Open Society Foundation among others.
The commission is especially critical of the United States, which its members say must lead changing its anti-drug policies from being guided by anti-crime approaches to ones rooted in health care and human rights.
The office of White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said the report was "misguided" and immediately started trying to discredit it.
"Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available as this report suggests will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe," Office of National Drug Control Policy spokesman Rafael Lemaitre said. They claim US drug policy wasn't a result of a "drug war" mentality and its "balanced drug control efforts were making a big difference," pointing to reductions in the use of drugs such as cocaine as proof.
The group says purely punitive measures had led to dramatic growth in "the global scale of illegal drug markets - largely controlled by organised crime".
"Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (especially cannabis) to undermine the power of organised crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens," the report urges.
Another priority, the report said, is to work on treatment. "Let's start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis," Cardoso said.