Once again, FORMER world leaders endorse marijuana legalization

When one of your cities has more Drug War murders than California, it refocuses your attention on ending the Drug War

The marijuana internets are abuzz with the latest headline about world leaders declaring the War on Drugs to be a failure and calling for the legalization of marijuana. Here are a few:

World Leaders: Time to End Marijuana Prohibition

Who’s Who of World Leaders Call Global Drug War a “Failure”

World Leaders Recommend Ending The ‘Failed’ Drug War

These headlines cover the report released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy yesterday.  However, I think the preceding headlines fail to make an important distinction, one that was not lost on the editors at NPR (emphasis mine):

‘Global War On Drugs Has Failed,’ Former World Leaders Say


– Asma Jahangir; human rights activist, former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions; Pakistan.
– Carlos Fuentes; writer; Mexico.
– Cesar Gaviria; former president of Colombia.
– Ernesto Zedillo; former president of Mexico.
– Fernando Henrique Cardoso; former president of Brazil.
George Papandreou; Prime Minister of Greece. [The exception that proves the rule? –“R”R]
– George Shultz; former secretary of state.
– Javier Solana; former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy; Spain.
– John Whitehead; banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial; United States.
– Kofi Annan; former secretary general of the United Nations.
– Louise Arbour; former U.N. high commissioner for human rights; Canada.
– Maria Cattaui; member of the board, Petroplus Holdings; former secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce; Switzerland.
– Marion Caspers-Merk; former state secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health, Germany.
– Mario Vargas Llosa; writer; Peru.
– Michel Kazatchkine; executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; France.
– Paul Volcker; former chairman of the Federal Reserve.
– Richard Branson; entrepreneur; founder of the Virgin Group; U.K.
– Ruth Dreifuss- former president of Switzerland.
– Thorvald Stoltenberg; former minister of foreign affairs and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; Norway.

It’s rarely current world leaders expressing these sentiments.  They seem to only speak out after they are out of office and lacking the power to help end that “failure”.  I’ve been reporting on the “former leaders” who call for an end to the Drug War since 2008:

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox calls for debate on marijuana legalization

Latin American ex-presidents urge US to decriminalize marijuana, rethink drug war

Former UK Drug Warrior: “What harms society is the illegality of drugs…”

Fortunately a few brave leaders speak out while they are still in office:

Argentine president calls for decriminalization of drug use

Jamaica lawmaker calls for legalizing small amounts of marijuana for private use

And when they succeed in decriminalization of drug use, they get amazing results:

United Nations backs drug decriminalization

The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal

The report itself makes many of the same recommendations NORML has been touting for four decades now.  The former world leaders recommend that we stop ”the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.”  They point out that “models of legal regulation of drugs” should be instituted by governments to reduce the power of organized crime and protect the health of citizens and that this “applies especially to cannabis.”  They explain that a realistic government drug policy would avoid “simplistic ‘just say no’ messages and ‘zero tolerance’ policies in favor of educational efforts”.  It’s nice to finally have world leaders, even former ones, recognizing we were and are right.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." – Upton Sinclair

Unfortunately, it’s the current ones – the ones who have the power to make these changes – we have to convince… and they’re not budging from their “Schedule I dangerous drug what about the children?!?” rhetoric:

(Los Angeles Times) ”Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe,” said Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

More available?  Almost 1 in 4  high school kids can get a bag of weed within an hour and say it’s easier to buy than beer and prescription drugs.  Twenty-five million American adults are using cannabis annually and fifteen million use monthly.  Marijuana is already quite available, it’s just a question of who controls and profits from the market – regulated businesses or violent criminals.

“Legalizing dangerous drugs would be a profound mistake, leading to more use, and more harmful consequences,” drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said this year.

Administration officials dispute the idea that nothing can be done to reduce the demand for drugs in the United States. A spokesman for the White House drug agency said U.S. consumption peaked in 1979, when surveys showed that 14% of respondents had used illegal drugs in the previous month. Now that figure has dropped to 7%.

Remember that when Gateway Gil says “drugs”, he means “marijuana”.  Among 12th graders, monthly use of marijuana peaked in 1978, but amphetamines peaked in 1981, cocaine use peaked in 1985, ecstasy use peaked in 2000, hallucinogen use peaked in 1975, heroin use peaked in 2000, and sedative use peaked in 1975.  Since marijuana is far more popular (15 million annual users) than all other drugs combined (6 million annual users), any movement of the marijuana numbers moves the “drugs” numbers.

And since he brought it up, I’d remind Gateway Gil that his claim of that monthly drug use dropped in half since 1979 came as sixteen states passed medical marijuana laws and two states decriminalized marijuana possession.  Your predecessors warned us that if we legalized marijuana, even in those very specific and limited ways, it would be a profound mistake, leading to more use, and more harmful consequences.  It’s understandable, since you and your predecessors are bound by law to oppose any move toward legalization, so you can understand when we completely ignore your Chicken Little warnings about legalization.

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