It’s Time to Decriminalize Drugs, Commission Report Says

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World leaders called for the decriminalization of drugs on Monday, in a report released by a commission that includes the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and former presidents of Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy’s annual report recommended that countries should end civil and criminal penalties for drug use and possession in a report that follows the commission’s sharp criticism of the UN’s lackluster effort to combat drug abuse. Commission member Richard Branson, head of the Virgin group, called the UN’s latest meeting on drug policy “fatally flawed” in April.

The former Swiss president and chair of the commission, Ruth Dreifuss, told the Guardian: “Politicians should show and prove to the people that what they are doing is to save the lives of these people and bring them to the health services they need to avoid overdoses and to create a climate so when these people are in need, they are able to find help.”

The commission’s report highlighted effective decriminalization policies, such as in Portugal, where drug possession is not a criminal offense. It also denounced harsh penalties for drug-related offenses, such as in the Philippines where there have been thousands of extrajudicial killings of drug users and dealers following the election of president Rodrigo Duterte, who has publicly urged citizens to “go ahead and kill” addicts and dealers.

Global drug policy has largely been driven by punitive measures in recent decades, but drug use has not slowed. From 2003 to 2014, the number of people aged 15-64 around the world who had consumed an illicit drug in the past 12 months jumped 33%, to 247 million.

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