Saturday, July 09, 2011

Michelle Nichols: A high-profile group of global leaders declared the "war on drugs" a failure

Global war on drugs a failure, high-level panel says: A high-profile group of global leaders declared the "war on drugs" a failure ... and urged governments to consider decriminalizing drugs in a bid to cut consumption and weaken the power of organized crime gangs.
By Michelle Nichols

The Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Switzerland, said a decades-long strategy of outlawing drugs and jailing drug users while battling cartels that control the trade had not worked.

"It's not peace instead of war, it's a more intelligent way to fight ... the use of drugs," former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, chair of the commission, told a news conference in New York. "Stop the war on drugs and let's be more constructive in trying to reduce consumption."

"We cannot have one recipe. It's not so easy to say stop the war on drugs and let's legalize, it's more complicated than that," he said. "Between prohibition and legalization there is an enormous variety of solutions in between."

The commission recommended that governments experiment with the legal regulation of drugs, especially cannabis, referring to the success in countries such as Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands where drug consumption had been reduced.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drug consumption and users now face fines and treatment instead of jail time, while in Holland heroin can be medically prescribed and in Switzerland addicts get free methadone and clean needles.

But the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said in a statement that making drugs more available would make it harder to keep communities healthy and safe. The United States is the biggest market for illegal drugs.

Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland, told reporters: "Drugs can be sexy when they are underground ... If you medicalize, it's no longer sexy."

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