By Dan King
Our America Initiative Outreach Coordinator of New York
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a worldwide group chaired by former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardozo, recently proposed a new policy to combat the war on drugs.
The proposal is every libertarian, progressive and at this point, probably most other Americans’ ideal policy - legalize drugs and treat the problem as a health issue, instead of a criminal justice issue.
The proposal advocates a myriad of different drug policies that politicians like Gary Johnson in America, Tim Moen in Canada and many others around the globe have already been pushing for.
For starters the proposal suggests abolishing mandatory minimum sentences, these sentences take a one size fits all approach to criminal justice. To assume that any and all crimes are created equal makes little to no sense and causes many nonviolent people to spend substantial time behind bars. Just look at Missouri man, Jeff Mizanskey who is potentially facing life in prison for buying marijuana. Tax money is being used to keep a nonviolent man behind bars, while his children are left without a father.
The Commission’s proposal also urges politicians to stop combating the drug issue with the violence and brute force of the modern criminal justice system. This is yet another common sense approach, as the unintended consequences of current drug policy have led to the death and serious injury of many people who aren't even involved and in some cases, even babies. Bounkham Phonesavah, a baby in Georgia, was seriously injured and spent time in a burn unit, after a SWAT team flash bang was thrown in his crib during a drug raid. To make matters even worse, no drugs or suspects were found in the home and the county has refused to help on medical bills.
Officials at the conference also suggested focusing more attention on the drug users instead of the drugs themselves. Overdose and drug related death, in many cases can be attributed to the fact that drugs are illegal and thus users have to use the drug in secret and dangerous ways. Cities like Vancouver have supplied clean needles for users and made them much safer, and since Portugal legalized all drugs in 2001, drug related deaths have been cut in half.
The final point of the proposal should even draw in support from traditional conservatives, as it advocates a free market approach to drugs, upon legalization. To see the potential success of drug entrepreneurship one need not look any further than former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson who recently became President and CEO of a legal marijuana company. People will do drugs regardless if it is legal or not, so why not allow people to prosper in the market place, the same way cigarette and alcohol companies do?
One can only hope that American politicians begin to see the merits of what has been suggested by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Only then will this nation stop the vicious cycle of creating criminals out of thin air, spending absurd quantities of tax payer money to fund this “war,” and taking a severe human toll on the American civilians.