Former Heads of State Want to Legalize DrugsBy
The former leaders of seven nations are ready for the the legalization of a wide range of drugs.
“Ultimately this is a choice between control in the hands of governments or gangsters; there is no third option in which drug markets can be made to disappear,” stated a report released on Tuesday from the Global Commission on Drugs. Its members include former presidents of Brazil, Switzerland, Colombia, Poland, Mexico, Chile, and Portugal; the former prime minister of Greece; and retired UN officials, among them ex-Secretary General Kofi Annan. Americans on the commission include former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who served under President Ronald Reagan, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who served under Jimmy Carter and Reagan.
The group made headlines in 2011 with an inaugural report (PDF) that urged countries to “break the taboo,” reduce the criminalization of drug use, and encourage legalization experiments. It offered cannabis laws as an example for reform. The new report goes further: “Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession—and stop imposing ‘compulsory treatment’ on people whose only offense is drug use and possession.” And it recommends that policymakers “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.” Such recommendations go far beyond the much more modest reforms that have started to gain support in the U.S.
The latest report hails a shift towards what it called “more humane and effective strategies” around the globe in the past three years, including the legalization of nationwide recreational marijuana in Uruguay, the legalization of some novel psychoactive substances in New Zealand, and a nationwide methadone program in Tanzania. The commissioners are urging the UN to revise existing treaties to facilitate more moves toward legal regulation of drugs. After formally releasing the report at a New York press event, the commissioners are scheduled to meet on Tuesday afternoon with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
“Ultimately, the global drug control regime must be reformed to permit legal regulation,” the commission’s chair, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, said in an e-mailed press release. “Let’s start by treating drug addiction as a health issue—rather than a crime—and by reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives. But let’s also allow and encourage countries to carefully test models of responsible legal regulation as a means to undermine the power of organized crime, which thrives on illicit drug trafficking.”