An opinion on the “war on drugs”

Did you see the Wall Street Journal yesterday where it reported “A commission composed mostly of former world leaders will recommend Tuesday that governments move beyond legalizing marijuana and decriminalize and regulate the use of most other illegal drugs, including heroin and cocaine.  The international drug-control system is broken, says a report to be released Tuesday in New York by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Governments should be allowed wide latitude to experiment with the regulation of drugs, except for the most lethal, says the commission, whose 21 members include former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, and former presidents such as Brazil´s Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mexico´s Ernesto Zedillo and Colombia´s César Gaviria.

“We have to control drugs, which are out of control,” Mr. Cardoso said in a telephone interview. “Some lethal drugs have to be prohibited…but the guiding principle has to be to guarantee the health and safety of people.”

The report is the latest indication that the U.S.-led war on drugs is faltering—even in the U.S., where 23 states now allow for medical marijuana, while two, Washington and Colorado, voted in 2012 to legalize marijuana. Last year, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana use and regulate its production. Latin American presidents whose countries have been on the front lines of the drug war, including Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos and Guatemala’s Otto Perez Molina, have called for a rethinking of drug policy.  The United Nations General Assembly Special Session, which will meet in 2016, will be a key opportunity to change drug policy to reflect these concerns, the report said. Until now, the U.N., the world’s leading body in setting international drug policy, has taken a hard line on the issue. The 2016 session, moved up from 2019 at the request of the presidents of Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia, was supposed to detail the progress made in eradicating drug production and use.  Mr. Cardoso said Latin American governments such as Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay are mobilizing to change the existing agreement at the U.N. meeting. But he said it would be a struggle given tough opposition from conservatives Arab states and Russia, among others. “It’s going to be very difficult,” he said. The report says that 43 years of drug-reduction efforts based largely on a law-enforcement approach that criminalizes users has fostered violence, instability and corruption. Government efforts to tackle drug use should be based on so-called harm reduction, which treats such use and abuse as a public-health and social problem, rather than primarily a law-enforcement issue. “The main thrust of [drug] law now is prohibition with violence, which does no good to either people’s health or security,” Mr. Cardoso said. “The concept now is that there has to be regulation with the objective of maintaining the health and security of people and respecting human rights.” Among the drugs which Mr. Cardoso said should be regulated are cocaine and heroin. He pointed out that some countries in Europe see heroin addiction as a public-health problem and seek to substitute methadone for heroin to prevent overdoses. From Mexico to Afghanistan, efforts to curtail drug use by police and military crackdowns have increased the wealth of drug traffickers, and the violence associated with the drug industry has led to a spike in human-rights abuses, generated instability and created major obstacles to economic development, the report said. In 2005, the world-wide retail drug trade was valued at $332 billion, with only $13 billion of that going to producers, and the rest going to middlemen, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the report said. In Mexico, for instance, since former President Felipe Calderón declared war on drugs in 2006, estimates of the dead and disappeared in drug violence range from 60,000 to 100,000. Meanwhile, drug capos spend more than $500 million a year on bribing government officials, the report said, citing a 1998 academic study.

In Afghanistan, drug profits fuel violence and instability by providing about $500 million a year to armed paramilitary groups operating on the border with Pakistan, the report said. And while Colombia used aerial spraying on 2.6 million acres of land to attack coca-leaf and opium cultivation between 2000 and 2007, the land under cultivation actually increased during this period, the report says. Earlier this year, Colombia’s communist guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, who are in the midst of complex peace negotiations with the country´s government to end a 50-year civil war, agreed to end their involvement in drug trafficking if a final peace deal is reached. In exchange, the Colombian government has agreed to stop aerial spraying of coca and opium fields, and push an ambitious program of rural development and crop substitution. Under any regulatory system, the commission recommended that sales to minors not be allowed. It also said that the most dangerous forms of drugs—such as crack cocaine or “krokodil,” the street name for a devastating, flesh-eating injectable morphine derivative—continue to be prohibited. The report said that law enforcement should “refocus” its efforts from incarcerating users to attacking the most damaging aspects of drug trafficking, such as violent drug gangs. It recommended more investment in strengthening the criminal justice system of countries affected by the drug trade, as well as international efforts to combat money laundering and corruption.

For years we have been saying the war on drugs is a phony war and one to give jobs rather that solve any problems.   Over a trillion, yes $1,000,000,000,000 has been spent for nothing but creating world turmoil.


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