|06-06-2011, 02:42 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: New Zealand
U.N global commission say war on drugs failed
10:40 AM Saturday Jun 4, 2011
With an estimated 129 million people or more using cannabis, legalising it would be likely to produce a tax bonanza. Photo / AP
Forty years after United States President Richard Nixon launched his War on Drugs, a conflict that far eclipses the War on Terror, the struggle to contain, let alone end, illicit drug abuse is far from over, spewing violence, corruption and addiction into new markets, brutal capitalism at its most malignant. But, finally, there is a glimmer of hope.
Yesterday, an extraordinary alliance of the great and good presented their recommendations on how to tackle this worldwide scourge to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in New York. Moral hysteria was noticeably absent.
The Global Commission on Drug Reform, formed in January, declared the War on Drugs a resounding failure, and suggested radical measures must be taken if the global narco culture was to ever be defeated.
"Fundamental reforms in national and global control policies are urgently needed," said Brazil's ex-president, Fernando Henrique Cardosa, who heads the commission.
"Let's start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives and legally regulating rather than criminalising cannabis."
Besides Cardosa, the august body included former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Cesar Gaviria and Ernesto Zedillo, the ex-presidents of Columbia and Mexico, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, former US Secretary of State George Shultz, Paul Volcker, the ex-chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Javier Solana, the ex-EU High Representative, and Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson.
They blasted drug policies, driven by "ideology and political convenience", that have criminalised "tens of millions", lower-end couriers, dealers or farmers who grow opium, coca or marijuana to escape poverty, because they are addicts or because they are intimidated.
Such policies, said the commission, have not reduced "the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organisations".
Ban Ki Moon was handed four recommendations. Drug users who "do no harm to others" should be decriminalised. Legal regulation should wrestle control from criminals. Treatment programmes, used in Europe and Canada, should be adopted. And states must respect the rights of people - addicts, dealers and farmers - found at the lower ends of the trade.
By yanking the debate on the War on Drugs firmly away from hysteria-based rhetoric that has bedevilled both reform and any hope that the war could be won, the report echoed earlier conclusions. These include the 2010 UN World Drug Report, which emphasises public health, economic development, security and human rights, and the 2009 Latin American Drug Commission, which favours decriminalisation.
The major shift is the call for legal regulation, which Danny Kushlick, external affairs chief for Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a British lobby group, calls a game changer.
Three factors give the commission's recommendations traction, says Kushlick. The global recession makes costly and failed drug policies unsustainable. Unintended consequences, such as the more than 35,000 dead in Mexico's savage battle with narco-cartels, compared to an "insurgency" by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have taken the War on Drugs to America's doorstep.
And President Obama's less "bullish" attitude towards the war makes it politically acceptable for US allies, such as Mexico and Colombia, to publicly raise decriminalisation and legal regulation.
The sense that change is in the air is echoed by the work of the Law Commission in New Zealand, which tabled its findings into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 in April.
"It advocates a shift in policy process, away from criminal law towards public health," says Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, a stance long held by the Greens. Moral judgments, says Turei, skew costs, interfere with rational debate and mean that drug policy is not evidence based.
The commission's report was accompanied by a public petition - with 562,000 signatures and counting at press time - collected by internet advocacy group Avaaz, which has nine million members. The linkage between online activism and old-school political lobbying is a very 21st century phenomenon. The alliance wants a paradigm shift.
The report and Avaaz's campaign were bolstered by a letter, published in yesterday's Guardian newspaper, calling for all illicit drugs to be decriminalisation in Britain. Signatories, including Sting, Branson, Dame Judi Bench, Mike Leigh, Julie Christie, three former chief constables, and an ex-drugs minister, argued that: "Criminalising people who use drugs leads to greater social exclusion and stigmatisation making it much more difficult for them to gain employment and to play a productive role in society. It creates a society full of wasted resources." Both the British and US governments refused to bow to reformers, but the no-punches tone of the report - "that repressive strategies will not solve the problem" - indicates patience with drug war nostrums is waning and public debate growing.
The War on Drugs has been fed by specious justifications that, despite much evidence to the contrary, just-say-no zero tolerance works. Drug warriors emphasise drug seizures, arrests, declining use of specific drugs and so forth.
This fantasy is bluntly rejected by commission members.
"The War on Drugs has failed to cut drug use, but has filled our jails, cost millions in taxpayer dollars, fuelled organised crime and caused thousands of deaths," said Branson. "We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organised crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals."
Given this downside, it is hard to ignore parallels with the failed US experiment on alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, which hugely benefited nascent organised crime.
"In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Gil Kerlikowske, the US "drug czar" told the Associated Press last year. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified."
The AP estimated the total cost of the drug war since 1971 at US$1 trillion ($1.2 trillion). But, in truth, it is hard to arrive at an accurate figure, especially if "cost" only weights up budgets to fight crime but ignores the social wreckage, whether from diseases such as HIV/Aids or hepatitis, or even the cost of home insurance in areas plagued by drug crime.
Certainly, the war is fed by huge, arguably unsustainable, budgets. The US Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the commission's calls, says the US spends US$1 billion a year.
Branson urged political and business leaders to consider "alternative, fact-based approaches" to countering illicit drug abuse. "The one thing we cannot do is to go on pretending the War on Drugs is working."
The war's emphasis on policing, military intervention and incarceration has reached its apogee in Mexico. Despite claims interdiction cuts the supply of drugs - one explanation for the Mexican war's savagery - world demand has grown. Last year's UN report says illicit drug use has exploded in developing nations - from Africa and Latin America, to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The once Western problem is now a global nightmare.
Historians seeking the heart of darkness in the drug war might ponder Brazil, where oxi, or oxiana, a cocaine-derived hallucinogenic, reputedly twice as powerful as crack cocaine at a fifth of the price, plagues city streets. A social worker was quoted as saying most first-time users fast become zombie-like addicts.
Reformers say the state must push aside criminal gangs and take over the production and supply of drugs. Given the UN estimate that between 155 and 250 million people use illegal drugs [129 to 190 million using cannabis], it indicates a tax bonanza.
Relaxing drug laws has been flirted with. Britain reclassified cannabis, from a Class B to a Class C drug, in 2004 - first recommended in 1979 - only to shift it back to Class B in 2009. Sixteen US states have legalised medical marijuana and five, including California, have ballot initiatives to legalise and regulate the drug.
A Californian law change would put the US in an awkward position in its relations with Mexico, where the US is supporting the bloody crackdown on the cartels that ferry drugs, including cannabis, to US users.
But the test case is Portugal, which decriminalised all illicit drugs in 2001, providing evidence-based analysis to weigh the results.
A paper published in the British Journal of Criminology last November said: "Portuguese decriminalisation did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding."
Meanwhile, a big push towards decriminalisation and legal regulation has come from Latin America, arguably one of the biggest losers in the American-led War on Drugs.
Last year Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, faced with public revulsion at escalating drug war violence, suggested legalising drugs. Last month former President Vicente Fox, speaking in Texas, said the US should legalise drugs.
The cries of anguish south of the border are no surprise given the havoc and misery drugs have wrought, from Cold War conflicts - such as the CIA's use of cocaine to fund the Contras against Nicaraguan Sandinistas in the 1980s - to terrorism, violence, addiction and pervasive corruption.
"We can no longer ignore the extent to which drug-related violence, crime and corruption in Latin America are the results of failed drug policies," said Gaviria.
"Now is the time to break the taboo on discussion of all drug policy options, including alternatives to drug prohibition."
Kushlick says decriminalisation alone is "a gift to organised crime".
The only way to control production and supply is via legal regulation. Politicians will have to step up, something many are loath to do because of fears of being branded "soft on drugs" by opponents.
But once drug hysteria is removed from the equation, the cold, hard numbers and public-health benefits of regulating illicit drugs make shattering the old taboos very attractive.
Ultimately, says Kushlick, ending prohibition would force Governments to face societal issues that contribute to drug abuse.
"Criminalisation is a smokescreen. The issue is not whether to legalise or prohibit drugs.
"But how do you make societies better?
"That's hard to do if you're being duped by politicians into supporting policies that create harm."
Time for a paradigm shift. Prohibition has failed and what with the global recession and all it is becoming too expensive to lock up pot heads. I think the U>S will have to adhere to these recommendations at the risk of being called hypocrites, the consequence of which is unbelievable. No more drug wars, Mexico will be released from the drug lords maybe, prison populations will go down by 40%, alcohol consumption will go down etc. Don't know why this isn't getting pumped all over msm.
|06-06-2011, 05:48 PM||#3|
Join Date: Aug 2009
Good to see that politicians and other influential people are starting to see sense. I was afraid that we were completely lost in the Orwellian nightmare, where reason and sanity are the ultimate evils.