Pubdate: Wed, 16 Mar 2016
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2016 Star Advertiser
Authors: Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Cesar Gaviria and Ernesto Zedillo 
Note: Fernando Henrique Cardoso is the former president of Brazil and 
chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Cesar Gaviria is the 
former president of Colombia. Ernesto Zedillo is the former president 
of Mexico. They wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.


Outdated drug policies around the world have resulted in soaring 
drug-related violence, overstretched criminal justice systems, 
runaway corruption and mangled democratic institutions.

After reviewing the evidence, consulting drug policy experts and 
examining our own failures on this front while in office, we came to 
an unavoidable conclusion: The "war on drugs" is an unmitigated disaster.

FOR NEARLY a decade, we have urged governments and international 
bodies to promote a more humane, informed and effective approach to 
dealing with "illegal" drugs.

We saw a major breakthrough a few years ago, when the United Nations 
agreed to convene a special session of the General Assembly to review 
global drug policy. It is scheduled to begin April 19.

Unfortunately, this historic event - the first of its kind in 18 
years - appears to be foundering even before it gets off the ground. 
What was supposed to be an open, honest and data-driven debate about 
drug policies has turned into a narrowly conceived closed-door affair.

In the lead-up to next month's session, the U.N. Commission on 
Narcotic Drugs in Vienna held a series of preparatory meetings with 
its 53 member countries. The commission took responsibility for 
crafting a declaration to be adopted by all 193 U.N. members of the 
General Assembly, and should finish this week.

But most of these commission-led negotiations have been neither 
transparent nor inclusive. Input from key U.N. agencies working on 
health, gender, human rights and development - and the majority of 
U.N. member states - was excluded. Likewise, dozens of civil society 
groups from around the world were shut out of the meetings.

Further, the draft declaration represents a setback rather than a 
step forward. It does not acknowledge the comprehensive failure of 
the current drug control system to reduce supply or demand.

Instead, it perpetuates the criminalization of producers and 
consumers. The declaration proposes few practical solutions to 
improve human rights or public health.

In short, it offers little hope of progress to the hundreds of 
millions of people suffering under our failed global drug control regime.

IF THE U.N. wants to seriously confront the drug problem in a way 
that actually promotes the health and welfare of humanity, here are 
the proposals the General Assembly should adopt.

)) First, all U.N. member states should end the criminalization and 
incarceration of drug users - an essential step toward strengthening 
public health, upholding human rights and ensuring fundamental freedoms.

)) Second, all governments should immediately abolish capital 
punishment for drug-related offenses. It is a medieval practice that 
should be stamped out once and for all.

)) Third, U.N. member states must empower the World Health 
Organization to review the scheduling system of drugs on the basis of 
science, not ideology.

)) Most important, diplomats attending the special session on drugs 
next month must confront the obvious failure of most existing drug laws.

THE ONLY way to wrest control of the drug trade from organized crime, 
reduce violence and curb corruption is for governments to control and 
regulate drugs.

This is not as radical as it sounds. Innovative experiments in drug 
regulation are underway around the world, and they offer important 
lessons to those who are prepared to listen.

Switzerland's national health plan, for example, now supports 
heroin-assisted treatment and maintenance doses for addicts in order 
to reduce harm to users.

Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001, with 
significant crime reduction and public health benefits, including 
decreasing rates of HIV transmission.

Dramatic changes in drug policy are also taking place across the Americas.

In the U.S., 23 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal 
purposes and four for recreational use.

Most Latin American governments are taking steps, albeit timid ones, 
to decriminalize the consumption of some drugs.

Uruguay has gone the furthest: it regulated its cannabis market from 
production to distribution to sale, with human rights at the center 
of the country's strategy.

There is still time to get the U.N. special session back on track, 
and we hope that will happen.

But even if the gathering does not live up to its full potential, we 
encourage heads of state and governments to test approaches to drugs 
that are based in scientific evidence and local realities.

That's the only way to arrive at an effective global drug control 
system that puts people's lives, safety and dignity first.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom