Assessing Progress in the War on Drugs

By Laura Spadanuta

The global war on drugs is a failure, according to a recent report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy. The report says the war on drugs officially started 50 years ago with the creation of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. And “while accurate estimates of global consumption across the entire 50-year period are not available, an analysis of the last 10 years alone shows a large and growing market,” according to the report.

Even though much of what the report highlights may be drawn from existing data, the array of individuals who endorsed the recent findings is noteworthy, says Danny Kushlick, head of external affairs for Transform Drug Policy in the United Kingdom. His organization has a Web site named Count the Costs, which cites the unintended costs of the drug war, such as fueling conflict and wasteful spending on drug law enforcement. Kushlick points out that many other organizations and advocates have proclaimed that the global war on drugs has been lost for many of the same reasons highlighted by the Global Commission.

With regard to this latest report, Kushlick says that support of senior political figures could make a difference. To have a former secretary general of the UN, Kofi Annan, support a call for experiments in legal regulation of drugs alongside former United States Secretary of State George Schultz, entrepreneur Richard Branson, four former Latin American presidents, and the sitting president of Greece “enables engagement of the higher level policy makers” says Kushlick.

Sylvia Longmire, drug war analyst and author of Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars, says the report’s findings may have been a bit over the top. However, she agreed with many of the report’s recommendations, among them decreased sentences for some lower-level drug offenders, and exploring decriminalization of certain drugs, such as cannabis (marijuana).

(To continue reading "Assessing Progress in the War on Drugs," from the October 2011 issue of Security Management, please click here)

photo by SWARE/flickr

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