The spiraling unpopularity of the War on Drugs has reached a global scale of condemnation.
More than 1,000 world leaders, businessmen, and celebrities — among them Bernie Sanders, Warren Buffett, and Tom Brady — signed a letter pushing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to make ending the War on Drugs a priority of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS).
Addressing many of the same issues as Bernie’s campaign platform on the War on Drugs, the letter called out what they saw as an ineffective battle against controlled substances — one that had negatively influenced the world in the end. Among those who spoke out with Sanders in the letter were former heads of state of Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Switzerland, Poland, Greece, Hungary, and The Netherlands.
“The drug control regime that emerged during the last century has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights. Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, it created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values… Governments devoted disproportionate resources to repression at the expense of efforts to better the human condition. Tens of millions of people, mostly poor and racial and ethnic minorities, were incarcerated, mostly for low-level and non-violent drug law violations, with little if any benefit to public security. Problematic drug use and HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other infectious diseases spread rapidly as prohibitionist laws, agencies and attitudes impeded harm reduction and other effective health policies.”
Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann said that the “End the War on Drugs” letter was completely unprecedented. Never before had such a large and influential group — even current focus of global attention Bernie Sanders — gathered together to forcefully make their disapproval known.
“The signatories represent a tiny fraction of the distinguished leaders in politics and public policy, academia, law and law enforcement, health and medicine, culture and entertainment, business, and religion who would agree with the sentiments expressed in this letter… We’ve come a long way since 1998, with a growing number of countries rejecting drug war rhetoric and policies. But the progress achieved to date pales beside the reforms still required.”
The War on Drugs has become increasingly less popular around the globe as media and researchers have consistently revealed its failures. One report released earlier this year, carried out by Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Public Health and International Drug Policy, indicates the War on Drugs was not successful in addressing the social side effects associated with drug use, and even exacerbated them in some contexts. Dr. Chris Beyrer, the report’s senior author, said that the evidence was undeniable, pointing to countries like Portugal where legalization had been a net positive.
“We’ve had three decades of the war on drugs, we’ve had decades of zero-tolerance policy. It has had no measurable impact on supply or use, and so as a policy to control substance use it has arguably failed. It has evidently failed.”
In the United States, the War on Drugs has led to the current incarceration of 208,000 offenders in jail, or 15 percent of the total prison population. A majority or 67 percent of Americans now believe providing treatment to users is better than prosecuting them. Furthermore, support for marijuana legalization has more than quadrupled from 13 percent in 1910 to 57 percent in 2014, reported Pew Research Center.
Other present day revelations have called the validity of the War on Drugs even further into question. Reporter Dan Baum was told by former Nixon adviser John Ehrlichman that Richard’s team did, in fact, develop the War on Drugs as a way to target two communities that they couldn’t seem to get rid of: African Americans and anti-war protesters.
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
With major figures from Bernie Sanders to Tom Brady signing on, what do you think about the state of the War on Drugs?
[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]