World leaders against the war on drugs

Consensus is mounting within the drug policy field that the prohibition on narcotics has not only failed to deliver its goals but has been counterproductive. Evidence is rising that current system has not only worsen many public health problems, such as the spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C but has created a much larger set of harms associated with the crime. These include vast networks of organised crime, prevalent violence related to the drug market, corruption of law enforcement and governments, and militarized crop eradication programmes resulting in environmental damage, food insecurity, and human displacement. These crucial international problems have motivated some of the high-rank personalities to revise current state of matters.

This Monday the Global Commission on Drug Policies – body created by former Latin America presidents – met in Geneva in order to set the goals for the campaign against the ideology of prohibition and amend the restrictive drug policy. Ex-Brazilian President,   Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who chairs the Commission, was supported in his claim that “eradication of production and criminalization of consumption did not reduce drug traffic and drug use”. Continuing, commission argued that the harm from corruption and violence resulting from prohibition "largely exceeds the harm caused by drugs”. According to the officials associated within the group the drug issue is "surrounded by fear and misinformation" and new ways to tackle drug abuse are desperately needed.

Global Commission on Drug Policies assembles a number of well-known international politicians, entrepreneurs and intellectuals, giving the body a high-profile status. Among member, it is worth mentioning, former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Columbia, Ernesto Zedillo,  Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Cesar Gaviria, former EU foreign affairs leader, Javier Solana, Nobel laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mexican writer, Carlos Fuentes, former president of Switzerland, Ruth Dreifuss, former U.S. Secretary of State, George Shultz, ex-UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Thorvald Stoltenberg and a founder of Virgin Group Richard Branson.

Ideas under consideration include changes to the UN's drugs control system, reviewing the success of operations against producers and traffickers and the risks and benefits of penalties for possession.  The Commission recommends an adjustment of the drug in terms similar to those of alcohol and encourages provision of medical treatment to drug dependent. Eventually, Cesar Gaviria (ex-Columbia president) highlighted that it is necessary “to give up on the idea that drug consumers are criminals".

Position of the Commission is clearly not a novelty in the drug policy field. Numerous actors and bodies including in the United Kingdom alone, the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Royal Society of Arts, and the UK Drug Policy Consortium observe similar issues about system based on prohibition. Interestingly, in its 2008 Report, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (main international body responsible for the drug policy) also make a note of “unintended consequences” of ban on drugs. Authors criticize the system for creation of a large black market and policy displacement – where money that could be used for health policies are being streamed to the law enforcement and security. Additionally, UNODC observes that prohibition emergence of new drugs in order to circumvent current law. Ultimately, report states that “a system appears to have been created in which those who fall into the web of addiction find themselves excluded and marginalized from the society”.

Global Commission on Drug Policies has a potential of becoming a major driver for the reforms in the international drug policy which for 100 years has caused more harm then good. Emergence of this kind of initiative points out that the criticism of present state of affairs is becoming visible to the world leaders, who are best positioned to fight against conservative and misfortunate drug regulations and replace them with liberal, freedom-oriented laws concentrating on aid not punishment.