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'Global War On Drugs Has Failed,' Former World Leaders Say

Mexican police at the scene of a drug-related shootout in Juarez on March 21,  2010.
Mexican police at the scene of a drug-related shootout in Juarez on March 21, 2010.

"The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world," a high-powered commission whose members include former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warns today.

The report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy goes on to recommend:

-- An end to "the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others."

-- Governments experiment "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."

-- Increases in "health and treatment services [for] those in need."

-- Less focus on the arrest and imprisonment of "people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers. Many are themselves victims of violence and intimidation or are drug dependent. Arresting and incarcerating tens of millions of these people in recent decades has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families without reducing the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations."

-- Less emphasis on "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."

-- A increased focus on "violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reachwhile prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation. Law enforcement efforts should focus not on reducing drug markets per se but rather on reducing their harms to individuals, communities and national security."

According to the commission members:

"Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers. Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalitiesand other harmful consequences ofdrug use. Government expenditures onfutile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments indemand and harm reduction."

As the BBC notes, though, "the U.S. and Mexican governments have [previously] rejected the findings as misguided."

The complete list of commissioners:

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