High ranking group urges an end to drug prohibition

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, June 2, 2011 13:40 EDT
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A panel of former high ranking world officials issued a report Thursday calling for an end to the global war on drugs and a move toward policies that treat addiction as a health problem instead of as crime.

The group, calling themselves the Global Commission on Drug Policy, includes the former presidents of Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil, along with a former U.N. Secretary General, a former U.S. Secretary of State, the prime minister of Greece and the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Commission members also include well known intellectuals, activists, entrepreneurs and human rights advocates.

“We have to look after those who are using drugs not as criminals, but as people who require some care,” former Brazil President Fernando Henrique Cardoso told Raw Story via telephone. “It’s not cool, necessarily, for a person to use drugs from time to time as a patient.”

Commissioners who spoke to reporters Thursday all called for industrialized nations to begin experimenting with policies proven to reduce crime, undermine the black market and discourage consumption.

“It is important to have this debate at the level of civil society — to create an atmosphere that it is possible to take the bold steps ahead,” Cardoso said.

“Overwhelming evidence from Europe, Canada and Australia now demonstrates the human and social benefits both of treating drug addiction as a health rather than criminal justice problem and of reducing reliance on prohibitionist policies,” former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss said in a media advisory. “These policies need to be adopted worldwide, with requisite changes to the international drug control conventions.”

The commission’s report cites figures showing that today’s drug policies have resulted in an increase in crime and use, with opiate and cocaine consumption up 34.5 percent and 27 percent from 1998-2008, respectively.

Those figures were contradicted by the U.S. Office on National Drug Control Policy, which told reporters that the commission’s approach would make drugs “more available.” They also pointed to figures that show a decrease in drug usage among U.S. teenagers.

“It is very important the U.S. look at these policies and make them effective,” former Colombian president César Gaviria told reporters Thursday. “It is not effective right now… The U.S. can do a lot to change this route of violence in Latin America.”

Read the full report.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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