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Top Economists Call On End to Drug War In New Report

Five Nobel Prize-winning economists were among those slamming the War on Drugs in a new report detailing catastrophic worldwide anti-drug policies.

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By Neville Elder

05/07/14

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According to a new report published by the London School of Economics (LSE), the war on drugs has been all but lost.

Written by a team of economists, including five Nobel-prize winners, the 81-page report, Ending the Drug Wars, calls for an end to catastrophic worldwide drug policies that have done far more harm than good.

“Academics and economists have great insight into this issue—and for so long, they’ve been ignored,” said John Collins, International Drug Policy project coordinator at the LSE. “Evidenced-based data about the war on drugs has been lacking for too long. It’s time that something changes.”

In the report’s introduction, Collins cited knee-jerk U.S. prohibitionists of the 1960s as the source of United Nation’s modern drug policy, while the phrase “the war on drugs” was originated by President Richard Nixon in 1971 during an unrealistic call to rid the country entirely of drugs.

“A ‘drug-free world’ is just not plausible,” said Collins, “The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the drug war is not only failing but ‘repressive’. The historical belief that controlling the supply of drugs would eradicate abuse is a fantasy.”

Though the report stressed prohibition in some form should continue, policy goals should be modified to drive dealers underground and control the violence, crime, and poverty created by the drug markets. "The pursuit of a militarized and enforcement-led global 'war on drugs' strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage," the report said.

Ironically the report comes at a time when Latin American countries like Uruguay, Columbia, and Guatemala have been turning their backs on U.S.-style crackdowns such as the eradication of drug crops, while seeking alternatives to the ‘war on drugs’ including legalization. Late last year, Uruguay became the first country in the world to nationally legalize marijuana.

In another chapter, Ernest Drucker, adjunct professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, railed against brutal U.S. prison sentences for drug offenders and described the appalling treatment of inmates incarcerated for minor infractions. These effects, Drucker complained, show the counter-intuitive effects of the drug war that allowed America’s prison population to explode over the last 40 years.

“(The) decriminalization of personal consumption, along with the effective provision of health and social services, is a far more effective way to manage drugs and prevent the highly negative consequences associated with criminalization of people who use drugs,” Collins wrote in the introduction.

The report concluded by calling on “rigorously monitored" experiments with legalization, such as the programs already in place in Washington and Colorado, and a focus on public health and harm reduction techniques like safe injection facilities in Europe and Vancouver, as ways of minimizing the impact of the illegal drug trade.

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