The Global Commission on Drug Policy has issued a new report calling for the entire planet to ramp down its handling of illegal substances. The bottom line: Leave possession of drugs alone.
The commission is an independent body that includes a slew of world leaders, intellectuals, and business folks, including Kofi Anan, the former head of the UN; George Schultz, the former U.S. secretary of state under Reagan; Richard Branson, the UK billionaire; and the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.
In a report entitled “Advancing Drug Policy Reform: A New Approach to Drug Decriminalization,” the 23-member commission recommends the demise of both criminal and civil penalties for small time drug possession and a ban on the death penalty for all drug-related crimes.
Unlike previous reports from the commission, which argued the concept of decriminalization as an alternative to the current boot-in-the-ass standard, the latest offering takes the idea a step further by suggesting that low-level drug possession cases should never even be met with a fine.
“The Commission believes that for the principle of human dignity and the rule of law to be firmly upheld, there must be no penalty whatsoever imposed for low- level possession and/or consumption offenses,” the report reads.
The report goes on to explain that not only should the heat be taken off those who use illicit substances, but also for those non-violent members of the black market drug trade because many of these folks are simply engaged “to alleviate their severe socio-economic marginalization.” It is the commission’s recommendation that illegal cultivators, small-time drug dealers and transporters with no history of violence should face only civil penalties.
Pointing out that some jurisdictions all across the globe have implemented decriminalization policies, the commission says these governments have been doing it wrong by imposing civil penalties, keeping the issue of drug possession in the realm of wrongdoing rather than treating as a health crisis.
Total decriminalization, including the elimination of fines and other civil punishments “must be the policy that countries strive to implement when reforming their drug laws,” the report reads.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy recoemmends the following changes be implemented worldwide:
- States must abolish the death penalty for all drug-related offenses.
- States must end all penalties—both criminal and civil—for drug possession for personal use, and the cultivation of drugs for personal consumption.
- States must implement alternatives to punishment for all low-level, non-violent actors in the drug trade.
- UN member states must remove the penalization of drug possession as a treaty obligation under the international drug control system.
- States must eventually explore regulatory models for all illicit drugs and acknowledge this to be the logical next step in drug policy reform following decriminalization.
While the latest Special Session of the General Assembly (UNGASS) in New York was supposed to be some revolutionary meeting destined to change the direction of the world in relation to drug policy, it ended up being more of a tourist attraction, one of which many drug reform advocates simply used as a opportunity to capture a selfie in front of the UN building rather than fight for drug reform. Within the first day of the special session, it was made perfectly clear that no changes whatsoever were coming into view—not even in the case of marijuana.
“The process was fatally flawed from the beginning,” Richard Branson told the Guardian back in April, suggesting that it was likely “too late” to salvage anything with respect to international drug law.
When pressured for action, all the United Nations has been able to spew over course of the past few years is some broken record noise about the three U.N. drug conventions—a global pact, of sorts, that is intended to prevent countries from capitalizing on illegal drugs.
However, there is nothing written in the language of the international drug laws that forces nations to impose severe criminal penalties on those who dare violate the (cough) sanctity of prohibition. Yet, this only applies to those offenses considered a “minor nature.”
It is for this reason that world leaders would like to see the international community move toward a complete decriminalization policy in an effort to start whittling away at some of the problems that exist today as a result of handling the drug issue through arrest and incarceration.
“At the global, regional or local levels, drug policies are evolving,” said César Gaviria, former president of Columbia, who serves as a member of the Commission. “However, in order to build solid and effective policies to mitigate the harms of the last 60 years of wrong policies, and to prepare for a better future where drugs are controlled more effectively, we need to implement the full and non-discretionary decriminalization of personal use and possession of drugs.”
The Global Commission has published similar political reports over the past five years, but none have influenced the world to take action with respect to drug reform.
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