Pubdate: Sat, 16 Apr 2016
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Andrew Duffy
Page: 3


Former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour is among a host of 
international jurists, politicians, celebrities and sports stars to 
sign a letter that denounces the "disastrous" war on drugs and urges 
the United Nations to lead the world toward a more enlightened drug policy.

"Humankind cannot afford a 21st century drug policy as ineffective 
and counter-productive as the last century's," reads the letter, 
delivered to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in advance of next week's 
UN special session on drugs.

"A new global response to drugs is needed, grounded in science, 
compassion, health and human rights," the letter says in arguing that 
drug use is primarily a health issue, not a matter for criminal justice.

The letter was signed by more than 1,000 world leaders, including 
U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, former Colombian 
president Cesar Trujillo, former U.S. Secretary of State George 
Shultz, and former Mexican presidents Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, actors Michael Douglas 
and Jane Fonda, and singers Carly Simon, Annie Lennox and John Legend 
endorsed the letter. Business leaders Warren Buffett, Richard 
Branson, George Soros and Canadian Ryan Holmes, founder of Hootsuite, 
also signed it.

Other Canadian signatories included Nobel Prize winner John Polanyi, 
former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ross Lander and former UN special 
envoy Stephen Lewis.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson also signed the letter, along with 
predecessors Sam Sullivan, Larry Campbell and Philip Owen, who was 
instrumental in bringing a supervised injection site to that city's 
drug-plagued Downtown Eastside.

A U.S.-based advocacy group, the Drug Policy Alliance, collected the 
signatures. "Never before have so many respected voices joined 
together in calling for fundamental reform of drug control policies," 
said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the alliance.

The UN special session on drug policy, which begins Tuesday, was 
proposed by the Mexican government with strong support from other 
Latin American countries. It is the first of its kind in two decades.

The conventional war on drugs, which has focused on penalizing drug 
users, has created vast criminal organizations and corrupted 
governments while diverting public resources, the letter to the UN 
secretary general contends.

"Tens of millions of people, mostly poor and racial and ethnic 
minorities, were incarcerated, mostly for low-level and non-violent 
drug law violations, with little if any benefit to public security," 
it reads. "Problematic drug use and HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other 
infectious diseases spread rapidly as prohibitionist laws, agencies 
and attitudes impeded harm reduction and other effective health policies."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom