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Coalition Urges Nations to Decriminalize Drugs and Drug Use

By September 9, 2014July 22nd, 2022No Comments

A coalition of political figures from around the world, including Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, and several former European and Latin American presidents, is urging governments to decriminalize a variety of illegal drugs and set up regulated drug markets within their own countries.

The proposal by the group, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, goes beyond its previous call to abandon the nearly half-century-old American-led war on drugs. As part of a report scheduled to be released on Tuesday, the group goes much further than its 2011 recommendation to legalize cannabis.

The former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a member of the commission, said the group was calling for the legal regulation of “as many of the drugs that are currently illegal as possible, with the understanding that some drugs may remain too dangerous to decriminalize.”

The proposal comes at a time when several countries pummeled by drug violence, particularly in Latin America, are rewriting their own drug laws, and when even the United States is allowing state legislatures to gingerly regulate cannabis use. The United Nations is scheduled to hold a summit meeting in 2016 to evaluate global drug laws.

The commission includes former presidents like Mr. Cardoso of Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Ruth Dreifuss of Switzerland, along with George P. Shultz, a former secretary of state in the Reagan administration, among others.

The group stops short of calling on countries to legalize all drugs right away. It calls instead for countries to continue to pursue violent criminal gangs, to stop incarcerating users and to offer treatment for addicts.

Strong resistance is expected from world powers, including the United States and Russia, which favor maintaining strict criminal prohibitions. Several Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, impose the death penalty for drug smuggling.

Drug laws are being reconsidered by some countries around the world. Uruguay last year became the first country to establish a state-run market for marijuana. Colombia established a national commission to re-evaluate its own national policy. In Europe, some countries have long stopped making arrests for marijuana use and possession. President Obama has also questioned the fairness of prosecuting marijuana users.

The global commission takes aim at criminalizing drug use and possession. “Punitive drug law enforcement fuels crime and maximizes the health risks associated with drug use, especially among the most vulnerable,” its report goes on to say.

John Walsh, drug policy analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy organization, said members of the commission “realize that even if the debate is now really open for first time in half a century, different countries are going to be able to proceed at different paces.”


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