Over 1,000 Leaders Worldwide Call for End to “Disastrous” Drug War, Ahead of UN Special Session



On the eve of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem, world leaders and activists have signed a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to set the stage “for real reform of global drug control policy.”

The unprecedented list of signatories includes a range of people from Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders to businessmen Warren Buffett, George Soros, Richard Branson, Barry Diller, actors Michael Douglas and Woody Harrelson, Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, singers John Legend and Mary J. Blige, activists Reverend Jesse Jackson, Gloria Steinem and Michelle Alexander, as well as distinguished legislators, cabinet ministers, and former UN officials.

“The drug control regime that emerged during the last century,” the letter says, “has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights.  Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, it created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values.

“Governments devoted disproportionate resources to repression at the expense of efforts to better the human condition.  Tens of millions of people, mostly poor and racial and ethnic minorities, were incarcerated, mostly for low-level and non-violent drug law violations, with little if any benefit to public security. Problematic drug use and HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other infectious diseases spread rapidly as prohibitionist laws, agencies and attitudes impeded harm reduction and other effective health policies.

“Humankind cannot afford a 21st century drug policy as ineffective and counter-productive as the last century’s.”

“The influence and diversity of the leaders who signed this letter is unprecedented,” said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which orchestrated the initiative in collaboration with dozens of allied organizations and individuals around the world.  “Never before have so many respected voices joined together in calling for fundamental reform of drug control policies – in particular limiting ‘the role of criminalization and criminal justice… to the extent truly required to protect health and safety’.”

The UN Special Session, which will take place April 19-21, is the first of its kind since 1998, when the UN’s illusory but official slogan was “A drug-free world – we can do it!”  The upcoming UNGASS was proposed in late 2012 by the Mexican government, with strong support from other Latin American governments.  Last year UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a strong call-to-action, urging governments “to conduct a wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options.”  Today’s public letter to him was prompted in part by the obstacles to such debate within the confines of the United Nations.

“This letter was drafted and all the signatures secured in just the past few weeks,” noted Nadelmann.  “The signatories represent a tiny fraction of the distinguished leaders in politics and public policy, academia, law and law enforcement, health and medicine, culture and entertainment, business, and religion who would agree with the sentiments expressed in this letter.”

“We’ve come a long way since 1998,” said Nadelmann, “with a growing number of countries rejecting drug war rhetoric and policies.  But the progress achieved to date pales beside the reforms still required.”  As the letter says: “A new global response to drugs is needed, grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.”

See full list of signatories here.

This article first appeared at Drug Policy Alliance (DPA): the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

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5 Comments on "Over 1,000 Leaders Worldwide Call for End to “Disastrous” Drug War, Ahead of UN Special Session"

  1. “A new global response to drugs is needed, grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.”
    While I agree about the “war on drugs” the un is evil and does nothing for the people of the globe, not to mention they have no rights to tell us anything~ and is this the same grounded in science like “human caused global warming” which anyone with a freakin brain cell knows is a lie and fraud, seems that is all “science” is these days……….

  2. The reason the ‘drug war’ exists is to keep the little guy from making big bucks.
    Here in Colorado we won the war on MJ so move to Colorado and imbibe with a little help from your friends.

    suggested readings:
    ‘the Committee of 300’ John D. Colamn – hint: the royals have owned the drug routes for hundreds of years.
    ‘Barry and the Boys’Dennis Hopsicker – hint: poor Barry – thought he was king of the hill.Ended up 9in the trunk of his car – RIP.

  3. This is a dangerous list of people that is giving the UN credibility as a world player, and as somehow being important when in all actuality, they have no credibility., and they are not important.

  4. “As we are the masters of our destiny we can start to work in harmony with the law of Karma, and instead of living a lawless life we may live the life that satisfies the law. The first thing to do, therefore, is to start to think right, for when we begin to do this, we will start to act right, we will start to build in the proper manner, and while we must work out the result of past acts we will no longer commit other acts which must be worked out or other acts for which the penalty must be paid.”

  5. “Today we are building for future eternity by our present actions. We determine our own destinies. We are therefore accountable for all, either for salvation
    or condemnation; by our own individual will, we construct our own fate.”

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