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Global Commission Urges End to Criminalization of Drug Use

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A new report by a group of current and former world leaders recommends that the United States and other governments end the criminalization of drug use. The group urges governments to experiment with new ways to legalize and regulate marijuana to cut drug cartel profits. The report comes from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes past presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, the current prime minister of Greece and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The group urges governments to improve treatment services for drug users, according to the Los Angeles Times. The report says governments’ approach to reducing drug use has been a failure, and cites statistics from the United Nations indicating that worldwide marijuana use rose more than 8 percent and cocaine use grew by 27 percent between 1998 and 2008. An estimated 250 million people worldwide use illegal drugs, the report states, adding, “We simply cannot treat them all as criminals.”

The U.S. government’s response to the report was negative. “Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe,” Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said.

The Obama Administration has taken action in several areas to reduce drug use, including requesting $1.7 billion for drug prevention programs in 2012, up 7.9 percent from the previous year, the article notes. Administration officials have also supported the use of drug courts, where judges can offer sentences of treatment and other terms instead of jail time. The Administration also plans to expand programs that help drug offenders released from prison transition back into their communities.

21 Responses to this article

  1. steve / June 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I am very glad to see so many well-informed individuals frequent this site and post on it as well. We need to stand-up against institutions and groups that preach the “beneficial” war on drugs. Just like almost every other war we have started, its a failure and a sore for the decent human beings living in the US. Continue to fight for what is right and just! If we stop treating people that use drugs as criminals, maybe some of the could actually be helped my addictions counselors. See, when someone is arrested for marijuana, they are generalyl given the option for treatment or jail. They generalyl choose treatment, even if they are not an addict, but got arrested for having a joint on them and instead of going to jail they took the easier route. All those marijuana smokers that get busted and go to “treatment” centers, tkae up precious spaces that could have been filled with actual addicts and people with problems, rather than some kid who got busted with a joint. Let start using resources to truly HELP ppl… jail is not helping

  2. Avatar of Michael Velardo
    Michael Velardo / June 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    The U.S. government’s response to the report was negative. “Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe,” Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said.

    Ha! And communities are easier to keep healthy and safe now Mr. Lemaitre? That is a load of manure dude.

    Legalizing the use of drugs wouldn’t even tick up a statistically significant difference in the amount of drug abusers, and addicts now, or lower the pool of people barking up those trees.

    The problem with legalizing drugs, and making drug abuse, and addiction problems strictly health policy issues to be dealt with by mental health and substance abuse professionals is that the criminal justice system would literally collapse from the lack of criminals, and subsequent lack of those getting involved criminally in the system due to the extreme reduction in drug-related offenses. Consequently, a whole mess of jobs would disappear from the criminal justice system, including staffing the prison industrial complex.

    In fact, the Cartels would eventually disappear, or move to some other profitable enterprise, but it wouldn’t be drugs because they would be legal, regulated, taxed, and made cheaper than any Cartels could make them.

    Now isn’t that one of the real concerns, reasons, and arguments against legalizing drugs? Yet no one has the kahunas to come out and actually say it.

  3. corners / June 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    “This is simply not true, as both in-prison treatment and the presence and growth of drug courts illustrates.”

    You don’t think $40,000-$50,000 a year for treatment in prison is a little expensive? The drug war has only gotten worse and what to show for it? The largest prison population in the world is what. Prison and drug court wont even come close to fixing the problem. You need to take the money incentive out of drugs, like what happened to alcohol

  4. Avatar of Downtown Denny Brown
    Downtown Denny Brown / June 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I’ve been saying that prohibition doesn’t work since 1984, and I see people are finally agreeing with me. Anything the government prohibits just creates a black market and puts profits in the pockets of organized and unorganized crime figures. Also the media tries to say the violence is behind the drugs, and the truth is the violence is used to protect the profits the drugs generate because they are illegal. So money really is the root of all evil not the drugs per se. Futhermore, if you can’t win a war in 40 years or at least have better statistics that the drug problem is disappearing, wouldn’t you change your tactics? In my opinion, the drug courts are a start in the right direction for those already using and/or addicted to drugs. We need to spend resourses on preventing the next generation from getting started on abusing drugs. My pilosophy is everything in moderation. When a person uses ANYTHING to excess it can be harmful and yes, even fatal. For example too much water in a short periord of time is fatal but water is the one thing neccessary for life; a person can go much longer without food than water. If drugs were decriminalized we would need smaller police forces, fewer prisons,correctional officers, probation officers, parole officers, judges and court workers. Then the goverment could use that money for the education and treatment of drug abuse. I say STOP treating drugs as a criminal issue and START treatig it as an health matter. STOP making otherwise productive, law abiding citizens instant criminals with a permanent criminal history after a drug conviction.

  5. Avatar of Ken Wolski, RN
    Ken Wolski, RN / June 4, 2011 at 11:33 am

    The War on Drugs is the worst foreign and domestic policy this country has ever had. It is worse than Prohibition and Vietnam combined. It is destroying our inner cities, bankrupting our economy and promoting world-wide violence. It is ineffective at contolling illegal drug use and is only effective at perpetuating itself as an industry. It is time for a different approach to the issue.

  6. Doug / June 3, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Did someone imply that I live in a country (the USA) that is free from corruption? We’ve institutionalized corruption and the people who practice it. We call them “lobbyists and politicians.” The correctional lobby panders to fear and the pharmaceutical lobby panders to an opioid-fueled mixture of ignorance and bliss. Prohibition was repealed because it didn’t work. It fostered brutal gangs and a huge underground economy. We learned our lesson by 1933 yet Nixon conveniently forgot that in 1971 when he launched the War on Addicts and Minorities. We are 5% of the world’s population yet we consume around 60% of the illegal drugs and 25% of the Rx drugs. Anyone who says we have an effective drug policy in place must have a very creative explanation for those numbers. The war on drugs continues because politicians would rather get re-elected than do the right thing. Notice it is only after they leave office that they speak truth :)

  7. Avatar of Sue Rusche
    Sue Rusche / June 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Global Commission on Drugs Sings Same Old Flawed Song

    Although its title suggests otherwise, this commission is not an official commission of the U.S. government, any other government, or the United Nations. It is a private organization consisting of people who have long advocated for the legalization of all drugs.

    For decades, most of these folks have pronounced the “war on drugs” to have failed and that the best policy is to legalize drugs, prevent young people from “taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems.” To them this means such treatment modalities as heroin maintenance (which means taxpayers pay to maintain addicts on heroin in heroin clinics) and other such “harm-reduction” measures. They claim this approach has been tried successfully in some European countries including Switzerland, a claim challenged in Science several years ago.

    Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of legalization proponents’ marketing campaigns is the myth they spin that so long as drugs are illegal, addicts cannot get treatment. This is simply not true, as both in-prison treatment and the presence and growth of drug courts illustrates. These folks simply do not understand that addiction is a disease of denial. SAMHSA estimates that less than 20 percent of the 7.8 million Americans who need treatment for a substance use disorder actually get treatment. Of the 6.4 million who don’t get treatment, 92 percent feel they don’t need it.

    If the Global Commission is correct that legalizing drugs will enable everyone who needs treatment to get it—an admirable goal— it’s fair to ask how we’re doing with alcohol, which after all is legal. While 7.8 million Americans need treatment for a drug problem, 19.3 million need treatment for an alcohol problem and only 9 percent of them actually receive treatment. And like drugs, 96 percent of the 17.6 million who don’t receive treatment for an alcohol problem do not think they need it.

    Legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco create powerful industries that market their products to increase consumption (and in the case of tobacco, target children to replace their 500,000 customers who die of tobacco related diseases every year). The commission fails to understand that keeping drugs illegal prevents the development of such industries and consequently holds use—and therefore abuse and addiction–down. While 22 million Americans used an illicit drug in the past month, 131 million used alcohol.

    These folks are singing an old song, but the media is treating their commission as official and their report as something new. Neither is true.

  8. Jerry Epstein / June 2, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Since we have the most ineffective drug policy in the world we should certainly get some advice. We have three members on the Commission the most of any country and they imclude two icons G Shulz and P Volcker.

    Our only national commission The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, explained the failure of our drug policy in 1973:

    “Drug Use In America: Problem in Perspective” 

    “American drug policy is almost seven decades old, and not once during this period have the underlying assumptions been systematically evaluated and a broad, coherent foundation for policy making established.”

    “Drug policy can be, thus summed up: increased use of disapproved drugs precipitates more spending, more programs, more arrests and more penalties, all with little positive effect in reducing use of these drugs.”

    “We are convinced that public policy, as presently designed, is premised on incorrect assumptions … ”

    We never listened then and we have been afraid to look at our results ever since. Apparently most of the respondents here are so satisfied with our results that the prefer no scientific review.

  9. joebanana / June 2, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    This is the best news in a long time. The war on drugs is unconstitutional, to the point of treason. Article 3 Section 3, states that levying war against the states or the people is treason. Can’t argue with the wording. What we need is law enforcement that follows the law, not enforce policy for the elite.

  10. Avatar of Eric Wood
    Eric Wood / June 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Do we really want Mexico and Columbia to be advising us on drug policy?

  11. john / June 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Give me a break. The group made up of which includes past presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, the current prime minister of Greece. Look at these countries all are filled with corruption and their economies are in the tank, worse than ours except maybe Brazil. The legalizers find a bunch of kook ousted polititions make up a board and all of a sudden they think it’s worth something. Vicente Fox was in the cartels pocket when he was in office so you can’t tell me he is concerned about hurting the cartels now.

  12. Jerry Epstein / June 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    This a great report

    We need a similar US commission

    The level of ignorance about the realities of the drug war failure is captured by the response of ONDCP saying that if regulation came then increased “availability” would mean more abuse and addiction.

    In fact the drugs are more available now than ever and the number of teens who have told MTF for 35 years that drugs are “easy to get” is vastly greater than the number who actually use the drugs. We can’t do worse.

    The drugs will always be there. The drug war only adds drug dealers to our schools (over a million of them in their teens) and cartels.

    The net is unfunded research, treatment and prevention measures while police run in circles to no effect except to make prison populations explode, including a large number of the mentally ill.

  13. Avatar of Sharon McGhee
    Sharon McGhee / June 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Decriminalizating drug use especially cocaine abuse will only add to the criminal issues in our country. Treatment providers and the legal system have a means to offer treatment via Drug courts and institutional treatment that users would not otherwise access. I noticed that the world leaders that are promoting this are from countries that produce and smuggle in most of the illicit drugs for profit. I question is this to help addicts or to provide more financial gain for their citizens that produce the drugs.

  14. DDBOOTS / June 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    There is already a way out of hand drug abuse problem. There is no therapy to correct the problems and never will be!

  15. joebanana / June 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    We’ve already had a commission and it concluded prohibition was not the answer. the report was ignored. The petropharmicudical, chemical companies, the corrections lobby, Hearst corp., Dupont all spend billions of dollars to keep the laws in place and to make new ones, in the name of profit. Meanwhile hemp could save this nation, but our government would rather destroy it.

  16. joebanana / June 2, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Do we really want what’s happening there to happen here? It’s already starting. Do you enjoy your rights? This war is taking them away from everybody, not just the cartels.

  17. Brinna Nanda / June 4, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Yes, you are absolutely correct. The likes of Paul Volcker, and George Shultz are simply not to be trusted!

  18. corners / June 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Think a little harder. The reasons mexico and columbia do so well is because of the money involved with shipping this stuff to the usa. If it was legal, people wouldn’t be making much money off of it anymore. Basically destroying any reason to grow, manufacture then transport this stuff from other countries.

    How can people now know this? Alcohol prohibition anyone? Remember what happened? Gangs got rich when it was illegal? Gangs were poor and imploded after it was made legal again?

  19. Brinna Nanda / June 4, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Jerry, sometimes I just despair that there is any sanity left in this world, and then I read an intelligent, well-researched comment, such as yours, and I am at least temporarily comforted.

  20. Avatar of corners
    corners / June 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    “I question is this to help addicts or to provide more financial gain for their citizens that produce the drugs.”

    Pretty sure if its legal here making it in columbia, then shipping it to the usa wont make economical anymore. Nice try though. Take the black market out of it is the whole ideal. If there is no risk, there is no profit.

    Pretty sure our legal system has proved for over 30 years it cant handle the drug war. Drug court is relatively new as is alternative sentencing for drugs. For decades we just lock people up, and we still do in many places. You have too much faith in our correction and judicial systems, its obvious you have never been through it or someone you know.

  21. corners / June 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    “While 22 million Americans used an illicit drug in the past month, 131 million used alcohol. ”

    Well, guess we should do what you say and start locking drunks up? Send them top get treatment in prison or drug court? Im sure our prisons can use another 50 million people

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