The US and Hawai`i are definitely outliers in the world of drug policy. Pushing punative laws has not only helped to bankrupt governments; it has severely impacted other important aspects of governmental budgets and services such as education, health care, and human services.
This is especially relevant in Hawai`i since we are in the midst of a Task Force to make recommendations to the legislature for the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries for our sick and suffering residents.
It seems that everyone in the world knows the war on drugs is a complete and abject failure…while Hawai`i continues to push punitive laws and sentences for an issue that should be addressed in the public health arena.
Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work
Global Commission on Drug Policy, September 2014
Below are six examples from the report of how the war on drugs has failed:
- A Failure on Its Own Terms The international community is further than ever from realizing a “drug-free world.” Global drug production, supply and use continue to rise despite increasing resources being directed toward enforcement. Read more
- Threatening Public Health and Safety Punitive drug law enforcement fuels crime and maximizes the health risks associated with drug use, especially among the most vulnerable. This is because drug production, shipment and retail are left in the hands of organized criminals, and people who use drugs are criminalized, rather than provided with assistance. Read more
- Undermining Human Rights, Fostering Discrimination Punitive approaches to drug policy are severely undermining human rights in every region of the world. They lead to the erosion of civil liberties and fair trial standards, the stigmatization of individuals and groups—particularly women, young people, and ethnic minorities—and the imposition of abusive and inhumane punishments. Read more
- Fueling Crime and Enriching Criminals Rather than reduce crime, enforcement-based drug policy actively fuels it. Spiraling illicit drug prices provide a profit motive for criminal groups to enter the trade, and drive some people who are dependent on drugs to commit crime in order to fund their use. Read more
- Undermining Development and Security, Fueling Conflict Criminal drug producers and traffickers thrive in fragile, conflict-affected and underdeveloped regions, where vulnerable populations are easily exploited. The corruption, violence, and instability generated by unregulated drug markets are widely recognized as a threat to both security and development. Read more
- Wasting Billions, Undermining Economies Tens of billions are spent on drug law enforcement every year. And while good for the defense industry, there are disastrous secondary costs, both financial and social.Read more
The Global Commission’s new report recommends the following steps for future drug policy:
- Putting health and community safety first requires a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions. Read more
- Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession – and stop imposing “compulsory treatment” on people whose only offense is drug use or possession. Read more
- Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state. Read more
- Take advantage of the opportunity presented by the upcoming UNGASS in 2016 to reform the global drug policy regime. Read more
- Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain. Read more
- Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs. Read more
- Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances. Read more
World Leaders from 20 Nations Explain How to Dig Our Way Out of the Devastating War on Drugs
The new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy is a useful roadmap.
April M. Short, AlterNet, Sept. 10, 2014
Panel of Global Leaders Urges Drug Policy Overhaul
Edith M. Lederer Associated Press, abcNews, Sept. 9, 2014