On Drug War policies. We propose the need to find a solution, with a multidisciplinary and intergenerational approach that places individuals, and their welfare and dignity, at the center of drug policy. We call on both the Mexican and the U.S. community to open and maintain a dialogue about alternatives to Prohibition based on evidence, and which is inclusive in its considerations of the diverse options for drug regulation.
The “War on Drugs” is the name given to the global legal system of drug prohibition that derives from the UN international treaties of 1961, 1971 and 1988 (signed and incorporated into domestic law by over 150 countries). By agreeing to such conventions, countries set penal sanctions on the production, supply, possession and use of certain psychoactive drugs, although penalties vary widely from one nation to another.
This war has been waged through the seizure and destruction of drugs, and the incarceration of people who sell or use drugs. In the United States, the largest consumer of drugs in the world, millions of people have been arrested and incarcerated for nonviolent drug law violations in the past 40 years. The vast majority have been blacks and Latinos—even though they are no more likely to use or sell drugs than whites. 500,000 people are behind bars in the US today just for a drug law violation. It is a sad fact that there are more people incarcerated for drug offenses in the US than there are people incarcerated in Europe for all offenses combined.
In Mexico, the War on Drugs has taken its role as a state hegemonic policy of global range in the international system. For many decades, the debate and actions of governments around drug policy have focused exclusively on fighting drug production and trafficking, under the questionable premise that by curbing the demand, drug prices will rise and, in turn, drug consumption will decrease. But what prohibition has actually accomplished, by contrast, is the creation of a vast illicit market that finances organized crime.
This policy has become the banner for government action during the administration of Felipe Calderón, in spite of its obvious and utter failure. Not only has the Drug War failed to accomplish its goal (reducing drug demand by eliminating supply and raising prices), but it has brought over 60,000 murders, 20,000 disappearances and hundreds of thousands people displaced from their homes, as well as the weakening of institutions and a profound perception of insecurity among the population. Aggressive and militarized drug law enforcement has only led to a tragic increase in the violence.
The Mexican and US governments have insisted that the main problem is drug use in and of itself (beyond the harms that drug misuse can cause), and therefore have as their only objective the eradication of consumption. This failed policy ignores how much harm the War on Drugs is really causing in Mexico, which far exceeds the harms that drugs themselves can cause. This posture implies that public policies should be analyzed only by their own assumptions—not as a function of the viability of those assumptions, or the impact that policies have on people’s lives. Measured instead by these criteria, prohibition has been an enormous disaster.
It’s time to begin an honest and serious dialogue about alternatives to prohibition, including different forms of regulation and decriminalization. A wide range of options exists for regulating and controlling drugs in order to minimize their harms while diminishing the corrosive power of organized crime.
There are various proposals before the voters and governments of several US states (like Colorado, Washington and Oregon) this year to regulate marijuana like alcohol – a solution that more than half of the US public supports, according to the latest polls. Legislation has been introduced in the US Congress (HR 2306) to repeal the prohibition of marijuana at the federal level, as the US did with alcohol Prohibition almost 100 years ago. The bill would permit the different states to decide for themselves how they want to regulate marijuana – a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol, but which represents the leading source of revenue for drug trafficking organizations, according to the US government.
Although the Caravan does not recommend any specific form of regulation, many experts have recommended various models, such as the decriminalization of drugs for personal use, the legal regulation of marijuana, and the regulation of certain other drugs by prescription. The Caravan calls on the Mexican and US governments to adopt without further delay a new approach based on citizen security and public health. While the Caravan does not take a position on what form of regulation would be best suited for each drug, we recognize that prohibition has failed completely, and we demand that both governments put all options on the table—in order to reduce not only the harms of drugs, but also the harms of current prohibitionist policies.
SOURCES: Global Commission on Drug Policy Report (English), or Global Commission on Drug Policy Report (Spanish); “After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation” Transform Drug Policy Foundation, 2009, http://www.tdpf.org.uk/Transform_Drugs_Blueprint.pdf; and “Drogas y Juventud”. Gustavo Rojas, Revista México Social, No. # Agosto, 2012. / “Es hora de acabar la guerra contra las drogas” Gary S. Becker, http://www.elcato.org/publicaciones/articulos/art-2001-09-17.html
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