Rumor has it that one is supposed to introduce a source prior to citing it. So, here we go (emphasis on prestigious titles is mine):
- Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan
- Carlos Fuentes, writer and public intellectual, Mexico
- César Gaviria, former President of Colombia
- Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico
- Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico
- Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair)
- George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece
- George P. Shultz, former United States Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)
- Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain
- John Whitehead, banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, United States
- Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana
- Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, President of the International Crisis Group, Canada
- Maria Cattaui, Petroplus Holdings Board member, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland
- Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru
- Marion Caspers-Merk, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health
- Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, France
- Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board
- Richard Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, co-founder of The Elders, United Kingdom
- Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs
- Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway
I think we will all agree that this is a pretty impressive list of folks. Here is my bullet-pointed summary (mostly copy/pasted topic sentences, but sometimes paraphrased) of what they advocate in their Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (English and Spanish version available). Text in (parenthesis) is my occasional commentary.
- End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
- 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. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis. (Some call it insanity to continue to carry out a slightly different variant of the exact same approach, and to nonetheless expect vastly different outcomes. That describes the current US “War on Drugs”, in a nutshell.)
- Offer health and treatment services to those in need. (YA THINK?)
- Abolish abusive practices carried out in the name of treatment – such as forced detention, forced labor, and physical or psychological abuse.
- Apply much the same principles and policies stated above to people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers. (Folks gotta earn a buck to feed their families. These people should be regarded as blue-collar unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, not as evil criminal masterminds.)
- Invest in activities that can both prevent young people from taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems. (That approach is working wonders with cigarette use, no?)
- Avoid 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. (Similar to what most rational people advocate for sex education.)
- Focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation. (People already engaged in illegal businesses are more likely to use violence than established businessmen. Once the business in question is no longer illegal, how well do you think these violent criminals will fare when their business competition is a bunch of Fortune 500 CEOs who, whatever their other flaws, generally do not hire assassins? People are going to continue to get wealthy in the drug trade, regardless of any policy. Who would you rather see get wealthy – violent criminals, or legitimate businessmen? Pick one, because “neither” is not a realistic option, nor viable.)
- Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime. Base policy on the scientific method and on the scientific principals used by social scientists and medical practitioners, not on political convenience commonly used by politicians. (That second sentence was a heavy paraphrasing of what I suspect the commissioners would have wanted to say.)
Well, there it is and there is my commentary on the subject. But what does the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) have to say about the subject?
Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe.
Someone should point the ONDCP to point 2, above. That “stay the course” argument made by the ONDCP may have been a credible argument in 1995, but it’s a complete joke and lacking all credibility in 2011 unless you measure the success of the War on Drugs purely by using the famed “body count” model that characterized “stay the course” arguments during the Vietnam War, replacing dead bodies as the measure of success with incarcerated people as the measure of success. The United States does have the largest per-capita prisoner ratio in the world, after all, even higher than places such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Belarus, and any other country or so-called “Police State” that you’ve ever heard is a “human rights concern.” Yay for the War on Drugs?
I think not.
The entire industrialized world – including a minority within the United States – and many leaders of the developing world know exactly what the problem is and how it can be fixed. For these solutions to work, though, the largest economy in the world needs to get on board. Spain, Brazil, Columbia, and Germany can do what they wish, but so long as there is a strong demand for illicit drugs in the wealthiest nation on the planet, a supply will be furnished and all of humanity will suffer as a result.
We know what the current Civil War in Northern Mexico is about, right? I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t about Mexicans that want to use drugs…
Wake up, President Obama (D) and United States Congress (R). This Report with those prestigious signatures attached is your call to action. You cannot play dumb any longer, nor – given that list of signatures – can you continue to use ad hominem attacks to characterize those advocating policies such as those above as the advice of a foolish, uneducated, and inexperienced minority.