Jun 6, 2011

decriminalization no longer a fringe movement

A mix of former global political figures and business executives are calling for an end, of sorts, to the War on Drugs. The Guardian's Jamie Doward reports:
Former presidents, prime ministers, eminent economists and leading members of the business community will unite behind a call for a shift in global drug policy. The Global Commission on Drug Policy will host a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York to launch a report that describes the drug war as a failure and calls for a "paradigm shift" in approaching the issue.

Those backing the call include Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico; George Papandreou, former prime minister of Greece; C├ęsar Gaviria, former president of Colombia; Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general; Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil; George Shultz, former US secretary of state; Javier Solana, former EU high representative; Virgin tycoon Richard Branson; and Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

The commission will call for drug policy to move from being focused on criminal justice towards a public health approach. The global advocacy organisation Avaaz, which has nine million members, will present a petition in support of the commission's recommendations to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
But don't expect an armistice--or even a truce--any time soon. Jacob Sullum explains:
As the report makes clear, the commission, whether for ideological or tactical reasons, is not prepared to renounce the use of force to stop people from consuming politically incorrect intoxicants. It wants to lighten up on users and low-level suppliers while cracking down on "violent criminal organizations...in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation." But it is prohibition that enriches and empowers such organizations while encouraging them to be violent. As the Mexican government has vividly demonstrated since 2006, fighting drug cartels escalates the violence associated with the black market, which will persist as long as supplying people with the drugs they want remains illegal. The commission knows this: It quotes a study concluding that "drug-related violence and high homicide rates are likely a natural consequence of drug prohibition" and that "increasingly sophisticated and well-resourced methods of disrupting drug distribution networks may unintentionally increase violence."
Violence that continues apace.

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