Former President Jimmy Carter, in an editorial published by The New York Times on Thursday, urged sitting U.S. officials to rethink the drug war by decriminalizing marijuana possession and focusing on harm reduction policies over hard boiled policing.
In his essay, Carter looks at the proposals by a global commission of formerly high ranking officials who pleaded with the U.S. recently to take a new approach to reducing the harm caused by drug addiction. the former U.S. president calls their research and conclusions “persuasive” and suggests it is not far from what he proposed in 1977.
“I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts,” he wrote. “I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: ‘Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.'”
Members of the commission Carter cited include 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, a former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, well known intellectuals, activists, entrepreneurs and other human rights advocates.
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.
“Maybe the increased tax burden on wealthy citizens necessary to pay for the war on drugs will help to bring about a reform of America’s drug policies,” Carter wrote. “At least the recommendations of the Global Commission will give some cover to political leaders who wish to do what is right.”