A recent report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy opens with the straightforward claim: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” In The Wall Street Journal, former Secretary of State and honorary commission chair George P. Shultz decries our approach to America’s drug problem by arguing that criminalizing the entire process has proven to be ineffective and wasteful. “Drugs are still readily available, and crime rates remain high.” Through the course of our war on drugs, we have seen colossal overcrowding in our prisons by drug consumers who do not belong there in the first place. This leaves American taxpayers to foot the bill while leaving the lucrative and illegal drug market intact.
For Shultz and the rest of the global commission, the greatest casualty of our drug laws has been the enormous loss of human life in Mexico and other battlegrounds of narcoterrorism. The report states how in these areas, “Law enforcement agencies and drug trafficking organizations can become embroiled in a kind of ‘arms race’, in which greater enforcement efforts lead to a similar increase in the strength and violence of the traffickers. In this scenario, the conditions are created in which the most ruthless and violent trafficking organizations thrive.” These conditions are devastating but not irreversible, and it begins by learning from the different approaches by other countries in an effort to discourage drug use. If we can take the money spent towards incriminating addicts and instead use it to pursue international drug traffickers or improve our treatment centers, we would be doing much more for human rights than another forty years of the drug war. As the global commission concludes: “Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now.”
You can read the entire report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy here.