Former World Leaders Call For End To War On Drugs

By McCarton Ackerman 09/09/14

While former world leaders called for across-the-board decriminalization, the White House has yet to embrace such measures.

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Numerous former world leaders from across the globe have come together to call for an end to criminalizing drug use and urge experiments with legalization.

The former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Portugal, Switzerland, and Poland argued in a new report released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that the war on drugs has not only failed, but has actually fueled the violence and crime it sought to prevent. These former world leaders met early this week with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson.

“The facts speak for themselves. It is time to change course,” said former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, one of the commissioners, in a statement. “We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment. This has led not only to overcrowded jails but also to severe health and social problems.”

In addition to decriminalizing drug use and possession and experimenting with legalization, the report also offered several other recommendations, like calling for making health and community safety a priority, not imprisoning non-violent participants in the drug trade, and using a 2016 special United Nations session on drugs as a platform for change.

But while White House officials have acknowledged that some of the current U.S. drug policies have been counterproductive, they have not yet been willing to go down the reports’ advised middle ground of “responsible legal regulation” of all drugs.

“Our goals are not so dissimilar from the goals of the Global Commission. However, we disagree that legalization of drugs will make people healthier and communities safer,” said Cameron Hardesty, spokeswoman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“Our experience with the tobacco and alcohol industries show that commercialization efforts rely upon increasing, not decreasing use, which in turn increases the harm associated with the use of tobacco and alcohol. In fact, if we take Big Tobacco as prologue, we can predict that that approach is likely to cause an entirely new set of problems,” Hardesty said.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.