Global efforts to thwart the drugs trade have failed and the time has come for a radical rethink, according to a group of Nobel-prize winning economists, a former US secretary of state, the deputy prime minister of Britain and others.
It is time to end the 'war on drugs' and massively redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis, the group said in a foreword to a new academic report on global anti-drugs policies.
Citing mass drug-related incarceration in the United States, corruption and violence in developing countries and an HIV epidemic in Russia, the group urged the United Nations to drop its repressive, one-size-fits-all approach to tackling drugs.
The UN is due to hold a drug policy summit in 2016. Debate on the merits of drugs liberalization is already growing.
”(The UN) must now take the lead in advocating a new cooperative international framework based on the fundamental acceptance that different policies will work for different countries and regions,” the foreword said.
Signatories of the text included five Nobel-prize winning economists - among them Kenneth Arrow, Christopher Pissarides and Thomas Schelling - as well as former US secretary of state George Schultz, British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Javier Solana, a former European Union foreign policy chief.
It accompanied a report on the impact of global anti-drug policies published by the London School of Economics.
Some countries in Latin America have begun to turn away from US-led attempts to stamp out drugs through prohibition.
Uruguay's parliament in December allowed the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana. Colombia's president has called for a debate on alternatives to the war on drugs. And Guatemala's president has said his country could present a plan to legalize production of marijuana and opium poppies this year.
Voters in the US states of Colorado and Washington passed backed legalizing the possession and use of recreational marijuana in 2012.
The LSE report listed ways that efforts to defeat the drugs trade have failed, including research that found that a crackdown on cocaine trafficking in Colombia might account for as much as 46% of the increase in drug-related murders in Mexico as the trade shifted north.
It also cited estimates that drug offences were responsible for about 40% of the 9 million people incarcerated around the world.