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Nobel Economists Back Call to End Failed 'War on Drugs'

New report says militarized approach to fighting drug trade 'has failed on its own terms' and that new paradigms must be tried

- Jon Queally, staff writer

World leaders 'need to recognize that toeing the line on current drug control strategies comes with extraordinary human and financial costs to their citizens and economies.' (Source: LSE)Backed by five Nobel economists, numerous experts and government leaders, a new comprehensive report presented in London on Wednesday is calling for the end of the international so-called "war on drugs."

“The drug war’s failure has been recognized by public health professionals, security experts, human rights authorities and now some of the world’s most respected economists.” —John Collins, London School of Economics

The London School of Economics report— Ending the Drug Wars: Report of the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy (pdf)—outlines what its authors see as the "enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage" that have followed the militarized effort by governments who declared "war" on the illicit drug trade more than a generation ago and calls of those same governments to redirect taxpayer "resources away from an enforcement-led and prohibition-focused strategy" and instead focus on "proven public health policies of harm reduction and treatment" strategies for drug users.

As the report's forward makes clear:

[Evidence of the global failure related to the "war on drugs"] include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilisation in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world.

The strategy has failed based on its own terms. Evidence shows that drug prices have been declining while purity has been increasing. This has been despite drastic increases in global enforcement spending. Continuing to spend vast resources on punitive enforcement-led policies, generally at the expense of proven public health policies, can no longer be justified.

The United Nations has for too long tried to enforce a repressive, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It must now take the lead in advocating a new cooperative international framework based on the fundamental acceptance that different policies will work for different countries and regions.

This new global drug strategy should be based on principles of public health, harm reduction, illicit market impact reduction, expanded access to essential medicines, minimisation of problematic consumption, rigorously monitored regulatory experimentation and an unwavering commitment to principles of human rights.

“The drug war’s failure has been recognized by public health professionals, security experts, human rights authorities and now some of the world’s most respected economists,” said John Collins, coordinator of LSE IDEAS International Drug Policy Project and editor of the report.

And Danny Quah, professor of economics and international development at LSE and chair of the group responsible for the report, explained that world leaders, to whom the report in large part is targeted, "need to recognize that toeing the line on current drug control strategies comes with extraordinary human and financial costs to their citizens and economies.”

The report comes as the UN General Assembly prepares to convene a special session on drugs in 2016 in order to review the functioning of the current global drug control system, which numerous agencies, individual experts, and studies have shown is failing miserably.

The new report is being presented to Guatemala’s Minister of Interior, Mauricio López Bonilla, at a public event at LSE on Wednesday and Guatemala’s President, Otto Pérez Molina, is expected to take its findings to international forums such as the United Nations and Organization of American States to help drive reform of global drug policies.

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