Wednesday, May 7, 2014

End the Drug War

People scoff when I say Jimmy Carter was the best president. People who are ahead of their time are often not fully appreciated until the rest of society has time to catch up to their thinking. Case in point, President Carter's views on illegal drugs:

"Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana in private for personal use. We can, and should, continue to discourage the use of marijuana, but this can be done without defining the smoker as a criminal. States which have already removed criminal penalties for marijuana use, like Oregon and California, have not noted any significant increase in marijuana smoking. The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse concluded five years ago that marijuana use should be decriminalized, and I believe it is time to implement those basic recommendations." --President Jimmy Carter to Congress, August 2, 1977

These days, a majority of Americans agree with him.

I'm glad to see the world's leading economists are finally catching up:

It is time to end the ‘war on drugs’ and massively redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis.

The pursuit of a militarised 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 destabilisation 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 strategy has failed based on its own terms. Evidence shows that drug prices have been declining while purity has been increasing. This has been despite drastic increases in global enforcement spending. Continuing to spend vast resources on punitive enforcement-led policies, generally at the expense of proven public health policies, can no longer be justified. The United Nations has for too long tried to enforce a repressive, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It must now take the lead in advocating a new cooperative international framework based on the fundamental acceptance that different policies will work for different countries and regions. This new global drug strategy should be based on principles of public health, harm reduction, illicit market impact reduction, expanded access to essential medicines, minimisation of problematic consumption, rigorously monitored regulatory experimentation and an unwavering commitment to principles of human rights.

Professor Kenneth Arrow, 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics. 
Luis Fernando Carrera Castro, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guatemala.
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Professor Paul Collier, CBE, University of Oxford.
Professor Michael Cox, LSE IDEAS. 
Alejandro Gaviria Uribe, Minister of Health and Social Protection, Colombia. 
Professor Conor Gearty, London School of Economics.
Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland (1995 – 2005).
Professor Margot Light, LSE IDEAS. 
Baroness Molly Meacher, UK House of Lords.
Professor Sir Christopher Pissarides, 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics.
Professor Danny Quah, LSE IDEAS. 
Professor Dani Rodrik, Princeton University.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University.
Professor Thomas Schelling, 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics.
George Shultz, US Secretary of State (1982 – 1989).
Professor Vernon Smith, 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.
Dr Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (1999 – 2009).
Baroness Vivien Stern, UK House of Lords.
Professor Arne Westad, LSE IDEAS.
Professor Oliver Williamson, 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics.

Read their full report here.

It's time to end the drug war. The best president, a majority of Americans, and bigwig economists agree.