Governments Should “Decriminalize” Drugs
A highly anticipated report on the status of the global ‘war on drugs’ has just delivered what may be one of the sternest rebukes of current policy yet. The report, compiled by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, top Republican ex-cabinet members in the US, high-profile economists like Paul Volcker and many others, is blunt:
“Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: thatthe evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won.”
The report pulls few punches, and is sure to be controversial. It calls for decriminalization strategies — like those that worked with such aplomb in Portugal — instead of continuing counterproductive hardline tactics like jailing small-time users. The report is especially critical of the United States. The Associated Press has more:
Instead of punishing users who the report says “do no harm to others,” the commission argues that governments should end criminalization of drug use, experiment with legal models that would undermine organized crime syndicates and offer health and treatment services for drug-users in need.
The commission called for drug policies based on methods empirically proven to reduce crime, lead to better health and promote economic and social development.
The industrialized world is already seeing a slow trend towards decriminalization — European nations have long been moving towards more relaxed drug laws, marijuana may be legal in Canada in mere months, and even the United States is slowly adopting more lenient drug policies in places like California, Colorado, and Nevada. But the reports message is clear: jailing nonviolent offenders for buying drugs isn’t good for anyone. Providing social support and a road to recovery, as Portugal, a handful of other nations, and some progressive American programs have done is far more productive than sending citizens to jail.
Photo: taberandrew via Flickr/CC BY