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’.”
“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.