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Kofi Annan, George Shultz say drug war a failure

A new report calls the 'war on drugs' a failure. The claim isn't new, but hearing it from an ex-UN head and a former US secretary of State adds new weight to the criticism.

By Staff writer / June 3, 2011



Mexico City

It used to be easier to keep track of the various players in the “war on drugs.”

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There were “northern” consumers and “southern” producers and smugglers.

But now the roles are beginning to merge. The US is still the biggest market for illegal drugs, but drug use across the Americas is up. An overwhelming portion of the violence is in Mexico, but it is getting uncomfortably close to the US doorstep.

The picture of a drug war that's witnessed the simultaneous geographic spread of violence and use is at the heart of a report released Thursday by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that urges experiments with legalization and regulation as a way to reduce violence. “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” the report states.

The argument that criminalization has failed isn't new. But the names backing the report go far beyond the drug reform “usual suspects." Among the 19 members of the commission are former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and billionaire Richard Branson.

“They are not saying anything new,” says Jorge Hernández Tinajero, the president of Cupihd, a group in Mexico that disseminates information about drug policies. “But the people are new. These are powerful people.”

“Not the usual suspects,” agrees Adam Isacson, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America and expert on US drug policy.

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