The worldwide war on drugs and organised narcotics gangs has been a 'failure' according to a leading international drugs commission.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy urged world leaders to replace the system of strictly criminalising drugs and imprisoning drug users. The group also argued that countries who use a 'law enforcement' approach to drug crime should focus their efforts on violent organised crime and drug traffickers.
|Commission member Sir Richard |
Branson says legalize
The report states: 'The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.'
The commission, whose panel members include former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and businessman Sir Richard Branson, argued that decriminalisation does not always result in significant increases in drug use.
Current Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz are also on the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
Other members of the panel include former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and former U.S. Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.
'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 report states.
The Mexican Drug War is Failing
|People executed by drug gangs in Mexico|
Last year the drug-related death toll in Mexico stood at 15,273 after skyrocketing a massive 60 per cent on the previous year. In the four years since Calderon’s first wave of 6,500 troops went into battle with the cartels, 34,612 people have died.
That figure includes 30,913 execution-style killings, 3,153 deaths in shootouts between gangs, and 546 deaths involving attacks on authorities, according to federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire.
The violence was so intense in the country in 2008 that the Pentagon warned Mexico was on the verge of becoming a failed state. A bolster of more troops – some 50,000 are now fighting the war on drugs – has done little to reduce the death toll.
Calderon freely admits his strategy needs to be overhauled. 'We are aware that we are going through a very difficult time on security issues,' he said at a meeting with anti-crime groups last year.
Drug legalization in Portugal works
Portugal in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.
Five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.
|Once decriminalized in Portugal|
drug use has declined
The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.
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