Pubdate: Mon, 06 Jun 2011
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2011 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Josh Rothman


That's the conclusion of The Global Commission on Drug Policy, which
just published a new report about the war on drugs:

The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for
individuals and societies around the world.... 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.

The commissioners say that we need to "break the taboo on debate and
reform" when it comes to drugs, placing a far larger emphasis on
treatment, and experimenting with decriminalization. Countries need to
"end the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people
who use drugs but who do no harm to others," and "encourage
experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of
drugs to undermine the power of organized crime."

It's an extraordinary report, created by an extraordinary group of
commissioners: the list includes Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker, George
Schultz, Ernesto Zedillo, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, and
Richard Branson. It provides a largely international perspective. The
war looks just as bad, however, from the domestic point-of-view: just
listen to David Simon, the creator of The Wire:

would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat. I would put all the
interdiction money, all the incarceration money, all the enforcement
money, all of the pretrial, all the prep, all of that cash, I would
hurl it as fast as I could into drug treatment and job training and
jobs programs. I would rather turn these neighborhoods inward with
jobs programs.... You talk honestly with some of the veteran and
smarter detectives in Baltimore, the guys who have given their career
to the drug war, including, for example, Ed Burns, who was a drug
warrior for twenty years, and they'll tell you, this war's lost. This
is all over but the shouting and the tragedy and the waste. And yet
there isn't a political leader with the stomach to really assess it
for what it is.

Part of what makes the war on drugs so problematic, Simon argues, is
that the "war" metaphor forecloses thinking. No one wants to lose a
war. In fact, though, the drug problem is unique, even bizarre, and
can't be thought about in terms of other sorts of problems: it's not a
war, but a Franken-problem that's partly economic, partly
epidemiological, partly social. If we dealt with the drug problem
without the fog of war, we might be more adventurous in coming up with
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.