Huge Story – Global Commission calls for decriminalization, regulation, and legalization

We’ve been waiting for a big report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy. It was released tonight, and it’s huge.

Washington Post: Former world leaders call for nations to decriminalize drug use and experiment with legalization

Drug use should be decriminalized and governments should experiment with drug legalization and regulation, a group of former world leaders argues in a new report published on Monday night.

The recommendations from the Global Commission on Drug Policy reflect the views of the former leaders of some of the countries hardest hit by the illegal drug trade. In the report, they strongly argue that a costly global war on drugs has not only failed but threatens public health, fosters discrimination and fuels the very crime and violence it seeks to prevent.

“The facts speak for themselves. It is time to change course,” former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, one of the commissioners, says in a statement. “We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment. This has led not only to overcrowded jails but also to severe health and social problems.”

CNN: Why it’s time for drug regulation by Richard Branson

This latest report, “Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work,” reflects a new evolution in our thinking. We not only reiterate the case for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches, but we now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances.

The reality is that the most effective way to advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation. Much can be learned from the successes and failures in regulating alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical drugs and other products and activities that pose health risks to individuals and societies.

Al Jazeera: World figures call for decriminalization of all drug use

Otto Pérez Molina, the president of Guatemala, floated an audacious idea last December. His government was considering legalizing the production of opium poppy — heroin’s main ingredient — as an alternative to combating drug-fueled bloodshed in Central America, where the number of violent deaths today mirror those of the 1980s, when the region was entangled in civil wars.

That seemingly fanciful proposal gained steam on Monday with the release of a pioneering report titled “Take Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work.” In the report, a group of global luminaries calls for the decriminalization of all drug use and the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Global Commission on Drugs — headed by the likes of former U.N. secretary general Kofi Anan, Reagan-era U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, and former presidents of Latin America — represents the most distinguished group of leaders to call for drastic drug policy alternatives.

Punitive drug laws, the commission says, must be replaced by public health principles and a focus on human rights. Treat drug users as patients not criminals, members say, and counter drug-traffickers by regulating illegal drug markets and slicing into the money — and power — generated by drug syndicates, which the United Nations estimates rake in $330 billion a year.

“The call for experimentation with regulation is just common sense given the failures of the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” said John Collins, coordinator of the London School of Economics’ IDEAS International Drug Policy Project. “It’s clear that the old approach is politically unsustainable as member states such as the U.S. and Uruguay move ahead with new models of regulation around cannabis.”

Tom Angell with Marijuana Majority:

“With polling having shown consistent majority voter support for legalizing marijuana in the U.S. for several years now, it’s been clear that this is a mainstream issue in this country. Now this group of world leaders has not only put marijuana legalization on the table for serious consideration on the global stage, but has gone even further by suggesting that ending the prohibition of other drugs should be considered as a way to better protect public health and safety. The hope now is that these forward-thinking recommendations by so many respected former heads of state will encourage current officials to modernize their nations’ policies.”

Here’s the report

Our recommendations can be summarized as follows:

Putting health and community safety first requires a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions. Read More
  • Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession – and stop imposing “compulsory treatment” on people whose only offense is drug use or possession. Read more
  • Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state. Read more
  • Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain. Read more
  • Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs. Read more
  • Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances. Read more
  • Here are some of the members of the commission:

    Global Commission on Drug Policy
    From left: Branson, Annan, Zedillo, Cardoso, Gaviria, Dreifuss, Kazatchkine, Sampaio and Stoltenberg

    The full commission includes:

    Aleksander Kwasniewski
    Former President of Poland

    Asma Jahangir
    Human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan

    Carlos Fuentes
    Writer and public intellectual, Mexico – in memoriam

    César Gaviria
    Former President of Colômbia

    Ernesto Zedillo
    Former President of Mexico

    Fernando Henrique Cardoso
    Former President of Brazil (chair)

    George Papandreou
    Former Prime Minister of Greece

    George Shultz
    Former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)

    Javier Solana
    Former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain

    John Whitehead
    Banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial, United States

    Jorge Sampaio
    Former President of Portugal

    Kofi Annan
    Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana

    Louise Arbour
    Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, president of the International Crisis Group, Canada

    Maria Cattaui
    Former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland

    Mario Vargas Llosa
    Writer and public intellectual, Peru

    Michel Kazatchkine
    Professor of medicine, former Executive director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria

    Paul Volcker
    Former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board, US

    Pavel Bém
    Former Mayor of Prague, member of the Parliament, Czech Republic

    Ricardo Lagos
    Former president of Chile

    Richard Branson
    Entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom

    Ruth Dreifuss
    Former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs

    Thorvald Stoltenberg
    Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

    This is truly an impressive set of recommendations that have the potential to really shake up the status quo of international drug policy.

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