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Global war on drugs has failed, international commission says

Panel of former world leaders issues report that is sharply critical of U.S. anti-drug efforts, and calls for the legalization of some drugs

The global war on drugs has failed, a report by a group of high-profile former world leaders said on Wednesday. The Global Commission on Drug Policy report called for the legalization of some drugs and an end to criminalizing of drug users, according to BBC News.

"Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won," the report said.

The international group, which includes former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, recommended that governments consider new approaches to legalizing and regulating drugs, especially marijuana, as a way to stop profits from flowing to drug cartels.

"The U.S. needs to open a debate," said former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a member of the panel, according to the Los Angeles Times. "When you have 40 years of a policy that is not bringing results, you have to ask if it's time to change it."

The recommendation was dismissed by the Obama administration, the Los Angeles Times reported:

"Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe," said Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In the report, Gaviria sharply criticized the impact of U.S.-led anti-drug efforts on hard-pressed state institutions like the police and courts in countries throughout Latin America. "We can no longer ignore the extent to which drug-related violence, crime and corruption in Latin America are the results of failed drug war policies," he wrote, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The report contends that anti-drug policy has failed by fueling organized crime, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and causing thousands of deaths, according to BBC News. It cites U.N. estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.

Instead of punishing users who the report says "do no harm to others," the commission says that governments should end criminalization of drug use, experiment with legal models that would undermine organized crime and offer health and treatment services for drug users.The commission was particularly critical of the U.S., saying it must abandon anti-crime approaches to drug policy and adopt strategies rooted in concerns about health and human rights.

"Let's start treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives, and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis," Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former president of Brazil, said in a statement.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the 19-member commission includes, among others: former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, and former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, Cardoso of Brazil and Gaviria of Colombia—all countries that have faced brutal drug violence. Former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker are on the commission, as are writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa. The Global Commission is funded by member Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group, George Soros's Open Society Foundation, the Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the Centro Edelstein de Pesquisas Sociais in Brazil. The report is scheduled to be released on Thursday.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/110601/global-war-drugs-has-failed-international-commission-says