2 June 2011, 18:42

What’s behind proposals for drug legalization?

What’s behind proposals for drug legalization?

The Global Commission on Drug Policy – a group of influential politicians and former world leaders – has unveiled a surprising approach to the drug problem. The group’s latest report calls for the legalization of some types of drugs and an end to the criminalization of drug users.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy – a group of influential politicians and former world leaders – has unveiled a surprising approach to the drug problem. The group’s latest report calls for the legalization of some types of drugs and an end to the criminalization of drug users. The report coincided with a campaign launched by a number of top British actors, lawyers and academics who call for even stronger measures - the decriminalization of all drug possession. Needless to say that the governments rejected this idea as totally utopian. Does the call for the legalization of drugs entail an attempt to look at the problem in a fresh way or just a way to legitimize the failure of a global war on drugs?

According to the Global Commission on Drug Policy website, the purpose of the group is “to bring to the international level an informed, science-based discussion about humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies”. The recent 24-page report demonstrates extremely surprising ideas of”reducing the harm of drugs”. The panel, which includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Michel Kazatchkine, the former leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and a large number of world top political leaders, argues that the modern anti-drug policy has completely failed. But the most unexpected thing was the solution offered by the members of the group.

According to the controversial document, the war on drugs leads to the escalation of organized crime, costs taxpayers millions of dollars and causes thousands of deaths. The authors believe that to solve this problem,  governments should come up with legal models for drug use to undermine organized crime syndicates and start treating the drug-users as patients, not criminals.

"Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly… 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 says.

The strongest criticism is directed at the USA, which, according to the commission, concentrates too much on anti-crime efforts and ignores the human rights of the drug users.

The reaction of the White House was predictable. Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, rejected the report as totally misguided.

"Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated, “said the official. “Making drugs more available – as this report suggests – will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe."

A similar reaction awaited a campaign headed by some of Britain’s leading politicians and celebrities who published an open letter to David Cameron. The letter called for decriminalization of the possession of all type of drugs. When such ideas come from rock-star Sting or film-director Mike Leigh, they hardly surprise anyone. But when a proposal like this is being offered by former drugs minister Bob Ainsworth, it looks really confusing.

While the supporters of drug-decriminalization try to present their call as a fresh approach to the problem, it looks like other than a poor excuse for an inability to deal with the drug menace. One doesn’t need the experience of a high-profile politician to understand the risk that drug abuse brings to young people. Legalization would leave them totally vulnerable to the threat of addiction and, as Mexican National Security spokesman Alejandro Poire said, would never stop organized crime. While speculating about human rights, the supporters of legalization should think about the consequences of such a move. Dealing with generations of hopeless drug addicts would be a challenge incomparable with the war on drug traffickers and crime syndicates.

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