Global Commission Declares War on Drugs a Failure

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 4, 2011

    By Kellen Russoniello, George Washington Law School student, NORML legal intern

    In the first sentence of a new report, current and former world leaders agree that “[t]he global war on drugs has failed.” They then call for drastic reform in both national and global drug policy. As the report recognizes, the current regime is a criminal justice and public health nightmare.

    Released on June 2, 2011 by The Global Commission on Drug Policy, the report details the need for a new approach in drug policy. The Commission is comprised of nineteen current and former high-ranking policymakers from around the world, as well as experts in the field. Included in this committee are former presidents of Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Switzerland, the current prime minister of Greece, former UN High Commissioners, and a former US Secretary of State.

    The report lays out four core principles that should be the guideposts for developing national and international drug policies: Basing policy on scientific evidence; basing policy on human rights and public health principles; developing and implementing a globally shared drug policy that recognizes diverse political, social, and cultural realities; and pursuing drug policy through comprehensive means including both law enforcement and the citizenry.

    Additionally, the Commission outlines eleven recommendations for developing a more rational drug policy. These include removing criminal penalties for drug use and developing effective treatment, prevention, and harm reduction programs.

    Especially notable for NORML supporters is the Commission’s call for governments to experiment with the legal regulation of cannabis in order to cut down on violent organized crime and provide safety and security to citizens. The taxation and regulation of illegal drugs “is a policy option that should be explored with the same amount of rigor as any other.” The report also calls for examination of the scheduling system and the placement of cannabis in that system.

    The other recommendations are designed to eliminate the dogma of current drug policy and the stigma on current drug users and sellers. Ultimately, the Commission recognizes the following:

    [F]or every year we continue with the current approach, billions of dollars are wasted on ineffective programs, millions of citizens are sent to prison unnecessarily, millions more suffer from the drug dependence of loved ones who cannot access health and social care services, and hundreds of thousands of people die from preventable overdoses and diseases contracted through unsafe drug use.

    For us, the points made in the report are not news: marijuana policy reformists have been making these arguments for almost three quarters of a century. But it is heartening to hear that such powerful figures in international policy are not only realizing the harm of prohibition, but openly speaking about that harm and calling for alternatives. Additionally, the report is getting massive news coverage. The Drug Policy Alliance reported that over 1,000 news stories about the Commission’s report have been published worldwide.

    You can use this report to make a difference. Send a message to your legislators and urge them to read the report. Find your legislator here.
    Also, check out Erik Altieri, Communications Coordinator for NORML, discussing the report in an interview with CBS-Pittsburgh.

    67 responses to “Global Commission Declares War on Drugs a Failure”

    1. Providence, R.I. — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder suggested Thursday that the Justice Department will work with governors and other states to reach a satisfactory resolution of the establishment of dispensaries that sell marijuana to patients in state-sponsored medical marijuana programs.

      “We are in the process of working these issues with the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island and other U.S. attorneys across the country,” he said. “My hope is that something in the not too distant future …. will be addressed.”

      Holder’s cautious comments came during a news conference at The Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence in the city’s South End. He toured the recently refurbished facility on Oxford Street with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; Peter F. Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island, and state Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.

      Afterward, Holder appeared at a news conference where he was peppered with questions about the Justice Department’s position on dispensaries, also known as compassion centers, that sell marijuana to patients who smoke marijuana to deal with chronic pain and other debilitating ailments

    2. Cynthia Wood says:

      I would think that the most important first step would be ,to have marijuana declared under the food and drug act the same as coffee, tea, chocolate.As caffiene is some help to asthma patients and helps in deppression in small quanities and chocolate releases “feel good” hormones in the system. In my opinion marijuana in small quanities also can be very benificial, in relaxation.

    3. Bobby D.Denning says:


    4. Patricia says:

      I think one thing we need to do is to ask Congress to investigate the mass murders down in Mexico. Mexico is a country with a history of “dirty war.” Since Americans are funding the Mexican Army’s drug enforcement efforts, we should make sure those guys haven’t given in to the same old temptations that led them to form death squads and assassinate leftists back in the 1970s.

      It seems hard to believe that profit-motivated criminals would slaughter each other in such large numbers. This situation demands more transparency than the Mexican government has provided. We should demand that Congress investigate this situation and hold hearings on our policy down there.

    5. Robert P. Doyle SR says:

      The studied tactic by U.S. PSYOPS is to tell a lie, tell it often, tell it with no acknowledgement of contary truth. This is a result of millions of dollers and millions of hours, from the 1960’s, when a doller bought four gallons of gasoline. The use of these studies in political and international manuvering of opinion and policies has succeeded in fiscal bankruptcy couple with devolution of moral correctness.
      Prohibition only creates chaos and corruption.
      What is more corrupt and depraved than the American penal system ? Only the American abandonment of our founding LAWS in the adherence to our Constitution.
      We allowed this to happen, we must now restore the order of LAWS, not dollers to already wealthy and greedy entities.
      VOTE DEMOCRATIC, send the T’s and the R’s a message , “YOU R FIRED”

    6. […] full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform Share and […]

    7. joe oint says:

      i have been waiting for 35 years for this! thank god that world leaders are finally realizing how much damage prohibition has CAUSED!! they are starting to look at it as a health issue instead of a criminal issue which is how it should have been done in the first place!

    8. Ogre says:

      As great as this sounds, I highly doubt the privatized prisons and DEA will ever let the status quo change. They have to much invested in making drugs illegal so they can keep their pockets lined with tax payer money.

      Remember, Sorry for being such a downer : /illegal drug trade is big business, but so is the prosecution and imprisonment of the sellers and users.

      Sorry for being such a downer : /

    9. Chris in WI says:


      The government has done many bad things, but as I was a 37F (PSYOP Specialist) in the US Army, I can assure you that the Army is not used to spread propaganda in the US against our own citizens. It’s actually a violation of UCMJ to do so.

      The liers in this war are the office of national drug control policy, and the dea (along with a ton of private organizations like partnership for a drug free America).