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‘War on Drugs’ has failed, says global commission

An international commission made up of serving and former heads of state, in addition to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has branded the “War on Drugs” a failure and called for a major review of drugs policy.


An international commission has declared the “War on Drugs” a failure, while urging governments to consider legalising marijuana in an effort to undermine the drugs cartels, reduce prison populations and improve public health.

In a report issued on Thursday the Global Commission on Drug Policy called for “experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs.”

The 19-member panel includes Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, Colombian President Cesar Gaviria as well as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British businessman Richard Branson.

“Vast expenditures on criminalisation and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption,” the commission said.

“Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction” the report added.

The report also said that finding a new direction in policy “applies especially to cannabis....but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalisation and legal regulation.

The United States came in for particular criticism. The members of the commission insist that Washington must change its anti-drug policies from being guided by anti-crime approaches to ones rooted in health care and human rights.

"We hope this country (the U.S.) at least starts to think there are alternatives,'' former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria told The Associated Press by phone.

"We don't see the U.S. evolving in a way that is compatible with our (countries') long-term interests.''

However the US Government was quick to criticise the group’s findings and defend their prohibition policies.

“Legalisation remains a non-starter in the Obama Administration,” the White House said in a statement, adding that the long-term anti-drugs policy had significantly reduced illicit drug use in the USA while arguing that legalising cannabis would have little impact on the cartels’ activities.

‘The emperor has no clothes’

But the head of a leading US organisation, which advised the commission, said Thursday’s report could open the door to a more open debate, amid a climate in which publicly supporting calls for a relaxation of anti-drug laws often spells professional suicide for politicians.

“The commission’s statement is like the child in the story who stands up and yells that the emperor is wearing no clothes,” Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance told FRANCE 24.

“The high-profile nature of the members of the panel, and the strong message that they have sent out, gives an extra degree of encouragement and safety to politicians who want to speak out” Mr Nadelmann added. 

In a statement, former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria added that “now is the time to break the taboo on discussion of all drug policy options, including alternatives to drug prohibition.”

The panel also called for a review into the nature of drug addiction, saying that drug users should be offered medical treatment rather than being criminalised and punished for their actions.

The report added that the vast amounts of money spent on incarcerating users and trying to stem the flow of drugs would be better spent fighting violent organised crime and drug traffickers.

Several European members of the commission said that policy changes in Portugal, Germany, Switzerland and other countries showed that a change from criminalising drug users to offering them treatment and support them has reduced drug-related deaths and had either stabilised or reduced drug use.

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