Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Declaring War on the War on Drugs

A commission of global bigwigs, including former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, and a bunch of other elder statesmen, has issued a report calling for a major climbdown in the war on drugs:
Powerful and established drug control bureaucracies, both national and international, staunchly defend status quo policies.They seldom question whether their involvement and tactics in enforcing drug policy are doing more harm than good. . . . Meanwhile, there is often a tendency to sensationalize each new 'drug scare' in the media. And politicians regularly subscribe to the appealing rhetoric of 'zero tolerance' and creating 'drug free' societies rather than pursuing an informed approach based on evidence of what works. Popular associations of illicit drugs with ethnic and racial minorities stir fear and inspire harsh legislation. And enlightened reform advocates are routinely attacked as 'soft on crime' or even 'pro-drug.' . . .

If use does increase with moves toward regulation—and the possibility cannot be discounted—it is worth recalling that the totality of associated social and health problems is still likely to decrease. The use of legally produced products in regulated environments will be intrinsically safer, the harm linked to both the illegal trade and punitive enforcement will be reduced, and obstacles to more effective health and social interventions removed. . . .

The regime, and policies adopted to support it since the 1960s, is premised on the criminalization of people who produce, sell or use drugs. After more than half a century of this punitive approach, there is now overwhelming evidence that it has not only failed to achieve its own objectives, but has also generated serious social and health problems. If governments are genuinely committed to safeguarding the safety, health, and human rights of their citizens, they must urgently adopt new approaches.
I would like to be optimistic about this venture, but I am not. Legalizing dangerous drugs just goes too strongly against the grain of our heavily regulated societies for it to happen without our going through some terrible crisis.

No comments: