More governments should turn away from a repressive war on drugs that has “failed” and look to proven strategies to implement regulated markets for risky substances, a group of former presidents and leaders said in a report published yesterday.
Since the group that includes 12 former heads of state began advocating for an end to drug prohibition in 2011, a growing number of countries and US states have created medical or recreational markets for marijuana.
Now the group is looking at ways to smooth the way out of prohibition, recommending countries start regulating lower-potency drugs as well as reforms to international treaties that require prohibition and punishment.
“The international drug control system is clearly failing,” former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark said. “The health … of nations is not advanced by the current approach to drug control.”
By taking control of illegal drug markets, the report says governments can weaken the powerful criminal gangs that have grown despite decades of efforts to stamp them out.
The report, Regulation: The Responsible Control of Drugs, by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, was released at an event in Mexico, whose criminal gangs are top suppliers of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana to the US and where gang-related violence has driven murders to a record high.
“Mexico is the most important country in the fight against drugs,” former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria said.
Mexico’s recent history exemplifies the report’s claim that evidence shows arresting drug traffickers has little impact on drug supply and may increase violence.
Just more than 10 years ago, Mexico intensified its battle with drug gangs by sending out the military to battle traffickers.
While dozens of kingpins have been captured or killed, the number of gangs operating in Mexico has multiplied as new criminal leaders step into the breach and battle over turf.
The commission recommends that governments open participatory processes to shape reforms toward regulation.
Incoming Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has already started to hold town-hall reviews on violence and discuss potential “amnesty” for non-violent drug traffickers and farmers. Members of his team have said Mexico will evaluate creating legal markets for marijuana as well as opium.
The report calls for a renegotiation of the international treaties that created a “repressive” strategy where drug users and low-level dealers face stiff prison sentences, but it cautions nations are far from a global consensus yet.
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