It’s officially official: the war on drugs is a complete and utter failure that has devastated people and societies around the globe.
So says the newly released Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose members include former Secretary of State George Schultz, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker and various world leaders.
But while the Commissioners aren’t radicals, their recommendations most certainly are:
End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. Challenge rather than reinforce common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence.
Review the scheduling of drugs that has resulted in obvious anomalies like the flawed categorization of cannabis, coca leaf and MDMA. Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens Offer health and treatment services to those in need. Respect the human rights of people who use drugs.
Break the taboo on debate and reform.
Whoa, baby. Talk about a revolution.
And in a clear slap to Reagan-era policies and the debacle known as DARE:
Eschew simplistic ‘just say no’ messages and ‘zero tolerance’ policies in favor of educational efforts grounded in credible information and prevention programs that focus on social skills and peer influences.
Why? According to the report:
The global war on drugs has failed. When the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs came into being 50 years ago, and when President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs 40 years ago, policymakers believed that harsh law enforcement action against those involved in drug production, distribution and use would lead to an ever-diminishing market in controlled drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis, and the eventual achievement of a ‘drug free world’. In practice, the global scale of illegal drug markets – largely controlled by organized crime – has grown dramatically over this period.
Indeed. Between 1998 and 2008 alone, use of opiates has increased 34.5%, cocaine 27% and cannabis 8.5%, according to the report.
Yet the United States – the biggest perp in the drug war and biggest consumer of licit and illicit drugs – remains in deep denial, wasting some $40 billion a year – yes, $40 FRICKING BILLION – fighting drugs. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal:
A spokesman for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy said U.S. drug policy wasn't a result of a "drug war" mentality and that its "balanced drug control efforts are making a big difference," including recent reductions in the use of drugs such as cocaine.
But you can only bury the truth for so long, especially when the whole world is watching. As Democracy Now! Reports:
The drug war has been an expensive failure both abroad and at home, said Bruce Bagley, an expert on drug trafficking and Latin America at the University of Miami. Abroad, Mr. Bagley compared U.S. efforts to a massive game of whack-a-mole in which drug supplies, drug violence and crime are "shuffled from one country to the other." He said that in the U.S. there is little or nothing to show for it "except for the warehousing of some 600,000 people a year on drug-related offenses in prison at huge cost."
"It's estimated that over one trillion have been spent on fighting this unwinnable battle," Mr. Branson said, according to the AP. "The irony is that a regulated market — one that is tightly controlled, one that would offer support not prison to those with drug problems — would cost tax payers much less money."
But then we wouldn’t be able to lock up large numbers of young men of color, in a form of judicial genocide. We wouldn’t be able to fatten up our police departments with money seized through asset forfeitures. We wouldn’t be able to continue our imperialistic meddling in the affairs of our neighbors to the south with infusions of military equipment and paramilitary training programs.
We wouldn’t be able to marginalize and criminalize a segment of our society, in a classic divide and conquer strategy. We wouldn’t be able to control people through fear and bullshit them into giving up their civil liberties. And we wouldn’t be able to give big pharm, with all its lucrative campaign contributions, a legal monopoly on the market.
Because, you see, the drug war is only in small part about drugs.