The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.
The panel includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.
The US and Mexican governments have rejected the findings as misguided.
The Global Commission's 24-page report argues that anti-drug policy has failed by fuelling organised crime, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and causing thousands of deaths.
It cites UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.
No doubts the jump in usage is coincident to the increase in worldwide wealth gained from American companies outsourcing American jobs to countries that pay less than American wages, thus bringing to those countries the uniquely American problem of work-related stress disorders.
I'm very much on the fence about this. Some drugs, opiates in particular, have a track record that is, well, less than ideal for introduction into society legally. Most are on prescription as having medical uses, and it seems to me that this might be the way to go for these classes of drugs: expand the prescriptive framework. Allow doctors to prescribe them more often for uses that people are already abusing them for, but with strict monitoring and follow up. Hell, we administer Prozac and Ritalin as if they were candy to any yahoo who can persuade a psychologist that his boredom or sheer idiocy is symptomatic of some disorder that sees sixteen squirrels running around his brain.
To coin a scenario.
Yes, there will be blindspots and oversights and people will slip thru the cracks but it almost certainly has to be better than having near-100% illegality. The current situation is untenable. Too, it creates shortages of medications that people actually need (try getting a box of Sudafed someday.)
On the other hand lie drugs that are clearly over-protected, that have a more benign history, that rightly could and maybe should take their places alongside such mood-altering substances as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and sugar.
Indeed, that last may be triggering an awful lot of excuses people have for medicating. Overmedicating with sugar leads to obesity, depression, and sleep disorders, among other effects.
If all these are going to be basically un- and at least under-regulated, then other substances like marijuana deserve "a day in court": serious study for legalization, and if not, then full decriminalization.
Too, from an economic standpoint, lifting the war on drugs would improve Third World economies enormously, not least from simply avoiding destruction of valuable farmland and the price that crime and criminals take out of a native population. Imagine Mexican farmers growing pot without worrying which drug cartel is in charge and what happens if another muscles in. Or perhaps the price of marijuana will drop enough that they plant a food crop instead.
It sure as hell would make our borders more secure, too.
Wars on nebulosities, like poverty or drugs or terrorism, inevitably butt up against a simple truth: where is the finish line?
In the case of poverty, the finish line was arbitrarily drawn by the haters at five years, and you'd better have your act together by then. That maybe the only war that we can control, because people in poverty don't want to be in poverty and will work with us to beat their own poverty back if given the opportunity.
People who supply drugs or terror are antithetical to the goals of those "wars": they want the war to lose. And if they can make us spend the energy and resources to beat them, even if we succeed, another crop will rise up to take its place. It is neverending war, by definition.
In the case of terror, the answer is simple. As Peter Gabriel once famously observed, you only achieve true security and peace by respecting the rights of others. There will still be terror attacks, true. For a while. Until the strength of a peaceful nation shows not in retaliation but in resilience. Once terrorists realize they can't do enough harm to topple us, they'll leave it be.
The case of the war on drugs, I think, is best won by admitting there really wasn't a war to begin with, that it was a marketing plan cooked up by people who were shocked that other people were having fun. Once we get over that hurdle and start to look into the causes of the use of drugs, we will have taken a large step in the direction of civilization.