By Kellen Russoniello, George Washington Law School student, NORML legal intern
In the first sentence of a new report, current and former world leaders agree that “[t]he global war on drugs has failed.” They then call for drastic reform in both national and global drug policy. As the report recognizes, the current regime is a criminal justice and public health nightmare.
Released on June 2, 2011 by The Global Commission on Drug Policy, the report details the need for a new approach in drug policy. The Commission is comprised of nineteen current and former high-ranking policymakers from around the world, as well as experts in the field. Included in this committee are former presidents of Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Switzerland, the current prime minister of Greece, former UN High Commissioners, and a former US Secretary of State.
The report lays out four core principles that should be the guideposts for developing national and international drug policies: Basing policy on scientific evidence; basing policy on human rights and public health principles; developing and implementing a globally shared drug policy that recognizes diverse political, social, and cultural realities; and pursuing drug policy through comprehensive means including both law enforcement and the citizenry.
Additionally, the Commission outlines eleven recommendations for developing a more rational drug policy. These include removing criminal penalties for drug use and developing effective treatment, prevention, and harm reduction programs.
Especially notable for NORML supporters is the Commission’s call for governments to experiment with the legal regulation of cannabis in order to cut down on violent organized crime and provide safety and security to citizens. The taxation and regulation of illegal drugs “is a policy option that should be explored with the same amount of rigor as any other.” The report also calls for examination of the scheduling system and the placement of cannabis in that system.
The other recommendations are designed to eliminate the dogma of current drug policy and the stigma on current drug users and sellers. Ultimately, the Commission recognizes the following:
[F]or every year we continue with the current approach, billions of dollars are wasted on ineffective programs, millions of citizens are sent to prison unnecessarily, millions more suffer from the drug dependence of loved ones who cannot access health and social care services, and hundreds of thousands of people die from preventable overdoses and diseases contracted through unsafe drug use.
For us, the points made in the report are not news: marijuana policy reformists have been making these arguments for almost three quarters of a century. But it is heartening to hear that such powerful figures in international policy are not only realizing the harm of prohibition, but openly speaking about that harm and calling for alternatives. Additionally, the report is getting massive news coverage. The Drug Policy Alliance reported that over 1,000 news stories about the Commission’s report have been published worldwide.
You can use this report to make a difference. Send a message to your legislators and urge them to read the report. Find your legislator here.
Also, check out Erik Altieri, Communications Coordinator for NORML, discussing the report in an interview with CBS-Pittsburgh.