Last week, the U.N.'s Global Commission on Drug Policy came out strongly in favor of decriminalizing drugs. The reaction from anti-legalization groups and politicians, alike, has been strong and pointed. As we reported last week, the commission called the drug war a failure and recommended a major overhaul:
Instead of punishing users who the report says “do no harm to others,” the commission argues that governments should end criminalization of drug use, experiment with legal models that would undermine organized crime syndicates and offer health and treatment services for drug-users in need.
The commission called for drug policies based on methods empirically proven to reduce crime, lead to better health and promote economic and social development.
Interestingly, the report is especially critical of the United States, saying that America should look at drug abuse more as a human rights and health care issue than an anti-crime one. Following the report's release, the U.S. was quick to issue a counter statement. The L.A. Times has more:
"Drug use in America is half of what it was 30 years ago, cocaine production in Colombia has dropped by almost two-thirds, and we’re successfully diverting thousands of nonviolent offenders into treatment instead of jail by supporting alternatives to incarceration," said Rafael Lemaitre, communications director of the White House drug policy office.
"Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe," Lemaitre said.
While the White House is coming out strongly against the report, back in 2004, President Obama also called the drug war a "failure." But, policy speaks louder than rhetoric, as the administration has requested $1.7 billion for "drug prevention programs" in its 2012 budget (a 7.9% increase from 2011). The total U.S. investment in the anti-drug fight? $26.2 billion. Below, watch Obama discuss the drug war, calling it an "utter failure" back in 2004:
Since the commission released its recommendations, the administration has been sure to reinforce its anti-legalization views in multiple forums. In an article for The Hill, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske explains that America's drug-control strategies are science-based. He writes:
...science shows that illegal drug use is associated with specialty treatment admissions, fatal drugged driving accidents, mental illness, and emergency room admissions. Illicit drug use has huge costs to our society, outside of just criminal justice costs.
In his piece, Kerlikowske took particular issue with the notion that drug abuse is a "victimless crime." In the end, Kerlikowske claims that the war on drugs has, indeed, been effective.
The U.S. isn't alone in pushing back against the U.N. panel. According to the L.A. Times, Mexico is rejecting the commission's recommendations as well:
In Mexico, President Felipe Calderon's government has consistently stated that it does not support the legalization of drugs but remains open to debate. The position was reaffirmed this week by the president's top national-security spokesman, Alejandro Piore (link in Spanish).
Piore said the Mexican government "categorically rejects the impression that in Mexico, by definition, a stronger application of the law on the part of the authorities shall result in an increase in violence on the part of the narco-traffickers."
Legalization, his statement also said, "does not do away with organized crime, nor with its rivalries and violence.
Ian Oliver, an author, former chief constable of Scotland's Grampian Police, and a consultant with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, joins the chorus with some strong words for the commission. He calls the report "grossly inaccurate" and pokes holes in the group's ideologies. He writes:
Sadly this report, supported by people who seem not to have done any research into the subject, alleged that successes in places like Portugal and Canada are justification for their recommendations when the reverse is true. No mention is made of the fact that after over 30 years of toleration the government of the Netherlands has recognised the error, actively seeking to abolish the cannabis cafes and has moved to prevent access to them by foreigners.
Anti-drug groups here in America are also less than enthusiastic about the findings. In an interview with The Blaze, Dr. Paul Chabot, the founder of The Coalition for a Drug Free California, explained his belief that President Obama's change of heart on the drug war may be genuine. He said, "In some ways, Obama has had an awakening on the drug issue."
Chabot also talked about the influence he believes George Soros and his Open Society Institute have on America's ongoing domestic battle over drug legalization:
"We’ve had three legalization bills in California that have been sponsored by Soros. Fourteen to 21 days before the 2010 marijuana legalization vote, Soros put $1 million behind it. The good news is we beat him."
Linda Taylor, a California-based activist who works with Chabot, told The Blaze that the U.N. panel is strategic in their recommendations. According to Taylor:
"This report was not written by the UN. It’s written by a drug legalization group masquerading as a legitimate source of information."
Interestingly, some of the commission's panelists do, indeed, have ties to George Soros. For instance, Bernardo Sorj is listed under "secretariat." He is the director of a group called Plataforma Democratica; George Soros' Open Society Institute is listed on the group's web site. Additionally, many of the individuals on the commission previously worked together on a similar Latin American initiative that came to similar conclusions (the results are published on Soros' web site).
Regardless of where one stands on this research or on the people who have come together to compile it, the data certainly opens the discussion up for debate. For more on the commission's findings click here.