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"We Need To Accept That a Drug-Free World Is An Illusion"

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently published an essay entitled "Lift The Ban! Kofi Annan on Why It's Time To Legalize Drugs".

His essay focuses primarily on the empirical effectiveness, or lack thereof, of drug policies. He argues that prohibition and criminalization approaches have simply not worked, and it's time for a new approach.

Globally, the "war on drugs" has not succeeded. Some estimate that enforcing global prohibition costs at least $100 billion (€90.7 billion) a year, but as many as 300 million people now use drugs worldwide, contributing to a global illicit market with a turnover of $330 billion a year, one of the largest commodity markets in the world.

Prohibition has had little impact on the supply of or demand for drugs. When law enforcement succeeds in one area, drug production simply moves to another region or country, drug trafficking moves to another route and drug users switch to a different drug. Nor has prohibition significantly reduced use. Studies have consistently failed to establish the existence of a link between the harshness of a country's drug laws and its levels of drug use.

He also discusses the real human cost of the drug war:

The widespread criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs, the over-crowded prisons, mean that the war on drugs is, to a significant degree, a war on drug users -- a war on people.

I believe that drugs have destroyed many lives, but wrong government policies have destroyed many more. We all want to protect our families from the potential harm of drugs. But if our children do develop a drug problem, surely we will want them cared for as patients in need of treatment and not branded as criminals.

Read the full essay over at Spiegel Online.

Cover Image: Flickr user Matthew Bednarik

H/T and Graphic: Drug Policy Alliance

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