Here's what a very-important panel wants you to know about the international War on Drugs: it doesn't work and it's time for governments to admit that it "has not, and cannot, be won." The findings of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (whose members include former presidents of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Switzerland, former United Nations head Kofi Annan and, for some reason, Richard Branson) will be presented today in New York.
The takeaway, at least from their bullet-pointed press release, boils down to an approach one might see in San Francisco: treat addiction as a health, rather than criminal, problem. A progressive approach, in other words, would include things that have outraged U.S. conservatives like "experimenting" with legalizing certain drugs and implementing assistance programs for addicts.
Those suggestions haven't gone over very well with Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the White House's National Drug Control policy. His spokesman emphasized to The Guardian that making drugs more widely available would only exacerbate the problem:
"Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available – as this report suggests – will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe."
Admittedly, it could be politically difficult for the White House to embrace some of the recommendations. That doesn't mean that they might be worthwhile. Here are those easier-to-digest points from the Global Commission's findings (and the full report):
- End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
- Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (especially cannabis) to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.
- Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available – including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada.
- Apply human rights and harm reduction principles and policies both to people who use drugs as well as those involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers.