Nobel Prize Winners Call For An End To The War On Drugs

Five Nobel prize winning economists have joined their voice to the many musicians, politicians and common folk claiming the war on drugs has failed and it is time to move our views on drugs from long incarcerations to public health education and more humane treatment of those caught up in the hazy underworld of drugs and addictions.

A report put out by the London School of Economics’ IDEAS Center compared both the enormous cost as well as the unexpected consequences coming from drug prohibition and weighed it against the expenditures on drug enforcement and how they affect national security, law enforcement and public health and safety. The 82-page document, titled “Ending The War On Drugs,” cites serious issues with the way anti-drug enforcement over the last decade has tried to meet its goals.

“The pursuit of a militarized and enforcement-led global ‘war on drugs’ strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage. These include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilization 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 report puts pressure on governments to make large changes to their drug policies, which the economists feel should be pushed more towards treatment and harm reduction than the current prosecute and imprison approach. The report also points a finger at the United Nations General Assembly, which plans to hold special council on drug policies in 2016, by stating that the “one-size-fits-all” method on drug enforcement has failed to be effective and that countries need to address and create their own individual policies concerning drug use and abuse.

“The UN must recognize its role is to assist states as they pursue best-practice policies based on scientific evidence, not undermine or counteract them,” said LSE economics professor Danny Quah,who contributed to the report. “If this alignment occurs, a new and effective international regime can emerge that effectively tackles the global drug problem.”

The contributions to the “Ending The War On Drugs” report comes from dozens of documents from foreign and domestic drug policy experts, and has been endorsed by the last five Nobel Prize winning economists: Kenneth Arrow (1972), Sir Christopher Pissarides (2010), Thomas Schelling (2005), Vernon Smith (2002) and Oliver Williamson (2009).

The report has the endorsement of many big names in the political field as well. Former EU representative Javier Solana, British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and, very surprisingly, former secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, George Shultz have all joined in on the movement, feeling the current policies on the war on drugs have been largely a waste of time and taxpayer money.

This 2008 graph represents the varied offenses that lead to time behind bars with drug use and/or possession counting for over half the incarcerated.

As the deception about marijuana and other recreational drugs such as LSD begin to unravel, the iron-fisted grip the American federal government had not just on its own people but the people of the world has begun to crumble. Last month in Denver, Colorado statistics from the first quarter of legal marijuana showed lower numbers when it came to crime, but high numbers in tourism and overall sales. This in turn inspired Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina to rethink his country’s drug policies, announcing that he is interested in making both marijuana and the cultivation of opium poppies legal. Molina has also backs the new report and plans to spearhead the discussion when the United Nations convene in 2016.

According to a recent Pew survey on the subject, it appears that Americans are also demanding reform of old drug laws, citing 67 percent favor policies that would provide drug treatment over arrests.

“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, the International Drug Policy Project coordinator at LSE IDEAS. “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.”

You can read the report from LSE in its entirety here.

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