The War on Drugs

The London School of Economics has released a new report entitled Ending the Drug Wars and it is available here. The report is collection of papers that might be of some help for those hoping to think through the issues. The forward takes the form of a statement signed by a long list of notables (including several recipients of the Nobel Prize in economics):

It is time to end the ‘war on drugs’ and massively redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis.

The pursuit of a militarised and enforcement-led global ‘war on drugs’ strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage. These include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilisation in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world.

The strategy has failed based on its own terms. Evidence shows that drug prices have been declining while purity has been increasing. This has been despite drastic increases in global enforcement spending. Continuing to spend vast resources on punitive enforcement-led policies, generally at the expense of proven public health policies, can no longer be justified.

The United Nations has for too long tried to enforce a repressive, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It must now take the lead in advocating a new cooperative international framework based on the fundamental acceptance that different policies will work for different countries and regions.

This new global drug strategy should be based on principles of public health, harm reduction, illicit market impact reduction, expanded access to essential medicines, minimisation of problematic consumption, rigorously monitored regulatory experimentation and an unwavering commitment to principles of human rights.

The war on drugs has been used to justify any number of infringements on human rights and civil liberties and has been a failure on every imaginable dimension. While there may be little that is genuinely new to those who have been thinking about drug policy, one can only hope—perhaps beyond hope—that the report will generate some media attention and support for genuine reform.

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