Times 2

War on drugs has failed, claims global narcotics watchdog

It has caused 'devastating consequences for societies worldwide'

The worldwide war on drugs and organised narcotics gangs has been a 'failure' according to a leading international drugs commission. The Global Commission on Drug Policy has urged world leaders to replace the system of strictly criminalising drugs and imprisoning drug users.

The group also argued that countries which use a 'law enforcement' approach to drug crime should focus their efforts on violent organised crime and drug traffickers. In a report issued by the commission, the 19-member panel said it wanted to encourage governments to legalise drugs like marijuana in an effort to 'undermine the power of organised gangs'.

The report states: 'The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.' The commission, whose panel members include former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and businessman Sir Richard Branson, argued that decriminalisation does not always result in significant increases in drug use.

Virgin Group tycoon Branson admitted in 2007 he had smoked drugs with his then 21-year-old son on a surfing holiday in Australia. Current Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz are also on the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Other members of the panel include former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and former U.S. Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.

'Vast expenditures on criminalisation and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption,' the report states. It added: 'Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers.

It has also been recommended that 'fundamental reforms are urgently needed in national and global drug control policies'. A further recommendation by the Commission is to replace the criminalisation and those who are drug users but don't hurt people with offers of health and treatment services.

Legalising marijuana and other illicit drugs would 'undermine the power of organised crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens', according to the commission. The report added: 'Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use.'

The commission's report added that money spent by governments on futile efforts to reduce the supply of drugs and on jailing people on drug-related offences could be better spent on different ways to reduce drug demand and the harm caused by drug abuse.

Meanwhile, a group of celebrities were on Thursday branded 'naive in the extreme' after pleading with David Cameron to decriminalise drug possession. Actresses Julie Christie, Dame Judi Dench and Kathy Burke, Left-wing film director Mike Leigh, singer Sting and Sir Richard Branson criticised drug policy in a letter to the Prime Minister.

In the open letter signed by 30 people, they demand a 'swift and transparent' review of drugs laws, followed by 'immediate decriminalisation' if the review found laws had failed. Nearly 80,000 people in the UK were convicted or cautioned for possessing an illegal drug in the past year and 'most were young, black or poor', the letter published by campaign group Release said.

But the stars were condemned by drugs campaigners who said removing penalties for cannabis would send a message such drugs were safe.

© Daily Mail, London

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