So while we are talking about trimming the fat from the budget, how about we start with this huge waste? It seems a lot of world leaders are thinking the same thing:
It isn't working. It never has worked. And so long as it continues to be fought in its current form, the "war on drugs" will do little to curb the spread of illegal narcotics or prevent hundreds of thousands of people from continuing to lose their lives each year as a result of the international drug trade.
So says a panel of world leaders who called yesterday for the biggest shake-up of drug laws in half a century. "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world," declared the Global Commission on Drug Policy. "Fundamental reforms... are urgently needed."
Now that makes sense, but not as much as what they are recommending as an alternative:
The Commission, which counts the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan along with former presidents of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia as members, believes governments must now experiment with "legal regulation of drugs." "This recommendation applies especially to cannabis," reads a major report it published in New York yesterday. "But we would also encourage other experiments in decriminalisation."
Exactly! Not only would decriminalization reduce the number of people incarcerated for drug related offenses, but it will also create a new revenue source through taxation.
Of course the issue of abuse still remains, but that is also addressed in the report:
Ecstasy, which is currently considered a class-A substance, ought to be reclassified in line with medical opinion that it is far less dangerous than legal drugs such as nicotine and alcohol, the report suggests. Users of narcotics should be offered education and treatment, rather than being incarcerated, it advises. And countries which insist on continuing a "law enforcement" approach to drug crime should focus resources on taking down high-level traffickers, rather than arresting everyday drug mules and street dealers.
Over the years the United States has systematically destroyed mental health in this country, starting under the Reagan administration. Addiction isn't treated as an illness, but rather as a crime and to add insult to injury, the addicts are locked up in a place where drugs are generally more readily available than on the streets. Just take a look at the re-incarceration rate of those convicted of drug crimes.
It's time for America to rethink it's position on drugs. We are missing out on a big budgetary savings and revenue source. It's time to put all the lies and myths aside and have a grown up conversation on how to address drugs in the 21st century and develop a position that will benefit not only our nation, but also those who suffer from addiction.