Petition for the Global Commission on Drug Policy
Global Commission on Drug Policy
We endorse the call of the Global Commission on Drug Policy to recognize the failure of current policy and to embark on a study of evidence based alternatives. See:
Full Report: http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/Report
A petition in support of the Global Commission on Drug Policy was circulated immediately after the press release about their intentions. Within a few days over 500,000 people worldwide signed.
To Ban Ki-moon and all Heads of State: "We call on you to end the war on drugs and the prohibition regime, and move towards a system based on decriminalisation, regulation, public health and education. This 50 year old policy has failed, fuels violent organised crime, devastates lives and is costing billions. It is time for a humane and effective approach."
DPFT also encourages everyone to contact their representatives to call for a similar US Commission.
2. Thoughts On a U.S. Commission
A basic question that a potential supporter of the petition might ask is, "Has our nation's drug policy been so effective that it should not be subject to independent evaluation ?" Second, "If more of the same does not promise any better results, what changes should we consider?" These are the same questions one might ask of their representatives.
One of the virtues of a commission is that a supporter cannot know the outcome in advance.
The proposal is justified on the simple basis of giving us a better informed public. This would help hold legislators accountable for their actions. Scientific analysis less constrained by political or ideological considerations would be valued highly by many citizens.
Many legislators fear that any deviation from current policy, any questioning of basic assumptions that may be no more than entrenched mythology, might open them to political charges that they are "soft on drugs." The petition itself is a simple way to inform legislators that voters would prefer them to be "smart on drugs," using policies based on evidence rather than politics. Legislators would be less fearful of supporting an independent analysis.
We have not had a national commission on the subject since 1982, when the political climate meant it was ignored. Today the failures of the drug war since then are more established in the public mind and much of the media has increased its level of skepticism. Commission findings could not escape wide publication and scrutiny.
The federal budget alone for drug policy is now around $20 billion a year (although, for the first time in decades, there will be a government attempt to shift reporting categories to make it appear smaller) much of which many experts believe is wasted or misapplied. A commission could be sustained for much less than 1% of that amount and is likely to show us how to spend less and get better results.
There is a reasonable expectation that the Academy would be extremely sensitive to the need to choose members whose independence, integrity and expertise are well established.
A commission could help to assure that :
* A greater measure of accountability would be introduced. Costly programs and ventures could be subjected to critical analysis.
* A more reliable, easily understood source of basic information could be established. Basic assumptions matter deeply in the development of policy. One aspect of this would be to allow an often poorly informed media to better fact check political claims.
* This would provide a check on political rhetoric. While some of the current rhetoric may be rooted in attempts to gain political advantage, it may often be the case that a politician is sincere yet misinformed. The legislature would also gain from the ability to cite the Commission to justify new policy proposals.
* Foreign experiences with policy variants could be more accurately assessed. In sum, legislators would find it difficult to explain opposition to a proposal that offers no risk and has the potential to produce substantial benefits if support is wide enough to get their attention.
3. Adding Teeth to the Commission
The primary risk of a commission is that it will report and be ignored. Legislative bodies, bureaucratic structures and commercial interests are inherently reluctant to risk power and profits.
Even if that were to occur, the findings would be a valuable repository of fact and opinion.
A sufficient media focus would minimize risk and improve the flow of information.
If the commission is allowed to sit and continue, rather than being limited to a single report, its ability to influence thinking will grow.
Congress could also vest the Commission with limited law making authority.
Conditions already exist where Congress has recognized that an issue is too important to be dominated by partisan bickering and political manipulation. The Federal Reserve Board is an example.
It is also possible to envision limiting the law making authority in various ways. For example, only recommendations by the Commission that have the approval of a 60% super majority would have the force of law, superseding existing federal legislation but still subject to veto by 2/3 of the House or Senate.
The point is that we are at an impasse and need to make reasonable efforts to find more success and less peripheral damage.
4. "Drugs and Crime Across America: Police Chiefs Speak Out"
EXTRACTS from a 2004 poll of more than 300 police chiefs across the nation by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for Drug Strategies and the Police Foundation (compares to 1996 poll by Hart)
Full report at: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/12_03_04policebrass.cfm
* Police chiefs (67%) believe overwhelmingly that law enforcement has been unsuccessful in reducing the drug problem.
* Most police chiefs (84%) believe either that a fundamental overhaul or major changes are needed in the way we address the drug problem in the United States.
* Drug abuse continues to be the top law enforcement problem and it continues to increase in seriousness. Police chiefs (64%) in small towns in particular reported substantial increases in drug abuse in their communities in 1996 and even more (71%) reported increases since then in the 2004 poll.
* Police chiefs across the country view drug abuse as the most important problem they face, far greater than the threat of terrorism.
[The drug problem is perhaps even larger than stated since the next two biggest problems named were domestic violence, which often involves alcohol abuse, and property crimes, which often involve attempts to pay vastly inflated prices for illegal drugs.]
* When asked to make a choice as to whether drug abuse is better handled by the criminal justice system or by a public health approach, 35% of [over 300] police chiefs chose the criminal justice system while 18% selected public health programs. However, the largest proportion of chiefs (44%) reached outside the confines of the survey question to volunteer the answer that both should have an equal role.
[This means that 62% of the chiefs have asked for a major shift in emphasis to increased use of public health oriented solutions.]