The global war on drugs has failed, a high-level commission comprised of former presidents, public intellectuals and other leaders studying drug policies concluded in a report released Thursday.
International efforts to crack down on drug producers and consumers and to try to reduce demand have had “devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” the report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy said.
The commission, which includes former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, challenges the conventional wisdom about drug markets and drug use.
Among the group’s recommendations:
— End of criminalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but do not harm others
— Encourage governments to experiment with drug legalization, especially marijuana
— Offer more harm reduction measures, such as access to syringes
— Ditch “just say no” and “zero tolerance” policies for youth in favor of other educational efforts.
The theory that increasing law enforcement action would lead to a shrinking drug market has not worked, the report says. To the contrary, illegal drug markets and the organized criminal organizations that traffic them have grown, the group found.
The report comes as countries such as Mexico suffer from widespread drug-related violence. More than 40,000 people have been killed in Mexico in the past four years as rival cartels battle each other over lucrative smuggling corridors and as the army fights the cartels.
The commission’s findings add more high-profile voices to a growing movement calling for a radical approach to drugs. Other leaders, such as former Mexican President Vicente Fox, have called for drug legalization as part of a solution to his country’s woes.