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Global leaders urge worldwide drug decriminalization… don’t hold your breath, America

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 14:47
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The U.S. led War on Drugs has been a total failure and caused more harm than good says a group of world leaders urging an end to drug prohibition.

A report out from the Global Commission on Drug Policy illustrates that drug prohibition has “little or no impact” on drug usage rates while making it increasingly lucrative for criminals throughout the world to enter the underground drug trade.

Despite heavy-handed drug eradication policies in a number of nations, global drug usage actually increased by 20 percent between 2006 and 2013. Today, the commission estimates, there are some 246 million habitual drug users throughout the world.

The group contends that drug decriminalization would lessen negative societal consequences of drug usage in a number of ways.

First, it has the potential to drastically reduce public health costs associated with the treatment of drug-related diseases by driving users worldwide out of the shadows to seek preventative care and rehabilitation.

“People who use drugs have paid a huge toll to the current drug control system; they faced alone and without any legal protection the ravages of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, as well as many non-communicable diseases,” said Professor Michel Kazatchkine, former Executive Director of the Global Fund on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. “Now we have the scientific and medical tools to provide all the services they need, but we mostly lack the political leadership to implement an enabling legal environment. This starts by the complete decriminalization of drugs.”

Another major benefit of drug decriminalization, advocates say, would be a huge reduction in violence and human trafficking enabled by the black market drug trade.

“As long as drugs are considered as evil, and thereby criminalized, they will remain in criminal hands. Because they are potentially harmful they must be regulated by responsible governments, who are in charge of the well-being of their population,” said former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose members include British billionaire Richard Branson and UN secretary general Kofi Annan, is calling for a five-part approach to rethinking global drug policies.

Its recommendations are as follows:

  1. States must abolish the death penalty for all drug-related offenses.
  2. States must end all penalties—both criminal and civil—for drug possession for personal use, and the cultivation of drugs for personal consumption.
  3. States must implement alternatives to punishment for all low-level, non-violent actors in the drug trade.
  4. UN member states must remove the penalization of drug possession as a treaty obligation under the international drug control system.
  5. States must eventually explore regulatory models for all illicit drugs and acknowledge this to be the next logical step in drug policy reform following decriminalization.

A major point made by the group is that governments must undo poor policy decisions rooted in anti-drug hysteria that emerged in the U.S. and elsewhere 60 years ago.

But don’t expect this acknowledgement to come quickly. Bad policies or not, the War on Drugs is big business for governments all over the world.

The problem is especially striking in the U.S., where citizens have been conditioned to believe massive federal spending on failed and unconstitutional drug eradication efforts is the only option to protect their neighborhoods from gang violence and addiction epidemics.

Meanwhile, despite federal spending of more than $50 billion on the drug war each year, gang violence is rampant in the nation’s inner-cities and along the southern border and the number of opioid-related drug overdoses has quadrupled in the past 20 years.

Thanks in large part to War on Drug policy, the U.S. also has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  About one out of every 111 American adults (2,224,400) currently resides behind bars, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

The U.S. War on Drugs, simply put, gives the federal government the power to spend massive sums of taxpayer dollars on outright violations of the Constitution. Just look at all the liberties the drug war allows for government agents— civil forfeiture and broadened search and surveillance authority being among the most egregious.

In recent years there has been some hope among civil libertarians that government officials would walk back some of the nation’s overzealous drug policies as talk emerged from Washington about sentencing reduction and reform for nonviolent drug offenses. In addition, a growing acceptance of marijuana legalization for medical and recreational marijuana use in a number of states has excited Americans who believe the government has no business regulating what a person puts into his or her body.

But the coming Donald Trump presidential administration has many wondering what’s ahead for U.S. drug policy.

Way back in 1990 Trump took a highly libertarian position on drugs, calling the drug war a joke and urging drug legalization to “take profit away from these drug czars.” Today, his positions are a little less clear. Trump seems to agree that medical marijuana is beneficial for many Americans but has stopped short of providing a firm answers about his administration’s drug policy goals.

We do, however, know exactly how Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, feels about the War on Drugs.

The Alabama politician has been one of the Senate’s staunchest opponents of earlier mentioned drug sentencing reform efforts as well as the proliferation of pro-marijuana legal changes in states throughout the country.

As noted by the Drug Policy Alliance:

Sessions, who once said that the Ku Klux Klan was, “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana,” has a track record of opposition to marijuana reform. Earlier this year, Sessions spoke out against marijuana legalization in a Senate hearing, and urged the government to send the message to the public that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He has also said in a separate hearing that marijuana cannot be safer than alcohol because, “Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to it and it is not harmless.” He is likely to use his power as Attorney General to close down state-legal marijuana and medical marijuana programs.

Sessions is also a proponent of harsh sentences for drug offenses. Sessions was the chief opponent of recent bipartisan efforts to reduce sentences for drug offenses, demagoguing that, “this proposal would provide for leniency for illegal alien drug traffickers,” and voting against the bill in the Judiciary Committee.

Ethan Nadelman, the organization’s founder, said simply: “Jeff Sessions is a drug war dinosaur, which is the last thing the nation needs now.”

And he’s right. If Trump has any intention of shrinking the size and power of the federal government, Sessions’ anti-drug hangups could cause big problems. That’ll be especially true if a Sessions Justice Department moves to crack down on pro-marijuana states to make a point about what “good people” should and shouldn’t do. After all, nothing says big government quite as well as federal police violating the will of state voters in an effort to exert some good old fashioned drug war hysteria.

The post Global leaders urge worldwide drug decriminalization… don’t hold your breath, America appeared first on Personal Liberty®.


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