A Group of World Leaders Just Sent a Powerful Message on the War on Drugs

A Group of World Leaders Just Sent a Powerful Message on the War on Drugs
Source: AP
Source: AP

The news: On Monday evening, a group of former world leaders announced their latest plans to tackle the increasingly expensive and seemingly insurmountable War on Drugs. 

Their solution: give up. 

Or, more specifically, they think the entire world should legalize drugs instead — and not just marijuana, but also coca leaves (used to make cocaine) and certain psychedelics.

In a report released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group comprised of people such as former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria and Richard Branson called for "decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches and now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances."

Inside the report: The solutions outlined in the report, titled "Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work," emphasize health and safety measures. "The Commissioners call for an end to the criminalization and incarceration of users together with targeted prevention, harm reduction and treatment strategies for dependent users," the executive summary reads

The report suggests alternatives to drug-related incarceration, decriminalizing drug use and possession, diminishing criminal syndicates that become more violent by competing with other organizations and support and permit experiments in legally regulated markets for illegal drugs. 

This kind of strategy would be a major ease on the wallets of the U.S. government, which has spent around $20-25 billion per year fighting the War on Drugs over the past 10 years. It would be welcome news for the half a million prisoners incarcerated for drug charges, as well as the millions of tax payers funding their penitentiary stays. On top of that, the tax revenue generated from legal drug markets could be huge, with some estimates putting the U.S. figure as high as $46.7 billion if rates were comparable to legal drugs like alcohol.  

This isn't the first radical report: The Commission published a similar report in 2011 that "condemned the drug war as a failure and recommended major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime," according to Drug Policy

And while the last report was successful in attracting heavy hitters to support drug policy reform, it did little else. But the Commission's latest statement is looking to impact the global drug approach at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016.

Richard Branson put it very well when he wrote a 2012 CNN op-ed saying, "In business, if one of our companies is failing, we take steps to identify and solve the problem. What we don't do is continue failing strategies that cost huge sums of money and exacerbate the problem. Rather than continuing on the disastrous path of the war on drugs, we need to look at what works and what doesn't in terms of real evidence and data."

According to the Global Commission on Drug Policy's report, this means legalization and decriminalization. And hopefully international governments will actually listen this time.