The War on Pot Is an Abject Failure
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The War on Pot Is an Abject Failure
Posted by CN Staff on April 23, 2009 at 06:01:22 PT
By Jag Davies, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet
World -- Practically overnight, faster than you can say "Depression 2.0", a ballooning number of politicians, mainstream media journalists, and members of the public are acknowledging the fact that cannabis prohibition isn't drug control — it's drug chaos. In the U.S. -- where 42 percent of the adult population has used cannabis -- three-quarters of a million citizens are arrested every year for simple possession, draining limited resources from pressing issues like education, health care, and real "criminal justice". 
South of the border, where cannabis comprises more than half of Mexico's drug trafficking market, prohibitionist policies are fueling a grim and growing war that recently prompted the U.S. Joint Forces Command to warn that Mexico is in danger of becoming a failed state. No wonder three-quarters of U.S. citizens think that the drug war is a failure, several states have introduced legislation this year to implement or expand decriminalization, and public support for outright marijuana legalization is polling higher than ever. Meanwhile, the crumbling economy has highlighted the monumental costs of cannabis enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration, not to mention the billions in potential taxes conceded to organized crime. (In a 2006 report, expert Jon Gettman used conservative estimates to value the annual U.S. cannabis crop at $36 billion -- absurdly, more than corn and wheat combined.) Abroad, the international community is also acknowledging the futility of U.S.-style prohibition as a model for global drug policy, and several countries have turned toward health-based approaches more in line with the U.N.’s health and human rights mandates. Cannabis is subject to international control by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended in 1971, and it is also affected by the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Although signatories of the international drug control treaties are formally required to criminalize the production, distribution, sale, use and possession of cannabis, a number of countries -- such as the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Austria and India -- have adopted less punitive policies. Yet, while the political viability of cannabis reform is reaching new found heights, there is a noticeable lack of consensus about the specific systems of regulation that could replace the current model.  Moving Beyond Stalemate  Enter the Global Cannabis Commission, an international team of leading public health policy experts (including Peter Reuter, Senior Economist at RAND) convened by the UK's Beckley Foundation. The Commission's Report and Draft Framework Convention on Cannabis Control map out solutions to break the current international stalemate, forming a blueprint for nations seeking to develop a more humane and effective approach to the control of cannabis. Among its recommendations, the Commission suggests reforming the international conventions to allow countries the leeway to implement differing systems of regulation that best suit their individual needs, even to the point of state production and licensed sale. The Commission identifies and analyzes potential routes forward -- depenalization, decriminalization, partial legality, and, finally, a regulated legal market. The Commission highlights aspects of international cannabis laws in need of revision and lays out ways in which countries can gain greater autonomy to pursue evidence-based cannabis policies. One way is for individual countries to denounce the international conventions and re-accede with a reservation on cannabis. Another way would be for a group of like-minded countries to negotiate and adopt a new convention specifically pertaining to cannabis -- this option is explored in the Beckley Foundation’s new Draft Framework Convention on Cannabis Control. Former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who has endorsed the Report, said that, "The Report of the Global Cannabis Commission convened by the Beckley Foundation is a valuable contribution to our thinking on the thorny subject of illicit drugs ... The failure of the 'War on Drugs' strategy is quite evident around the world, but the alternatives are not easy to grasp ... New policies must be based on empirical data, not on ideological assumptions and dogmas." Earlier this year, influenced by the Commission's Report, Cardoso, along with the former Presidents of Mexico and Colombia and 17 delegates from nine Latin American nations, called for a "paradigm shift" in international drug policy that includes the decriminalization of cannabis. The Commission's Report has also been endorsed by Jaswant Singh, leader of the opposition in the Indian Parliament's Upper House, and Jan Wiarda, former chairman of European Police Chiefs. Cannabis is the mainstay of the global War on Drugs. The U.N. has estimated that it is used regularly by 166 million people -- 4 percent of the global adult population, compared to 1 percent for all other illegal drugs combined. Under current international norms, anyone who possesses an illegal drug such as cannabis is treated as a serious criminal -- subject to the possibility of arrest, property seizure, imprisonment, denial of access to public benefits (such as financial aid for college or welfare), loss of child custody, and employment discrimination. As documented in the Report, there is no evidence that more rigorous enforcement has a significant deterrent effect, although there is extensive evidence that such enforcement causes considerable harms to those arrested and their communities. Nor is there evidence that a less punitive approach to cannabis control leads to any increase in the use of cannabis. Furthermore, although cannabis is more commonly traded within social networks than other illegal drugs, there are still illegal markets worth tens of billions of dollars to organized crime that sustain significant levels of violence in many countries. Almost fifty years after the adoption of an unequivocal international prohibition on cannabis in the 1961 Single Convention, we face a very different world. Yet, the U.N. Conventions restrict the ability of signatory countries to adapt to these changed circumstances and adopt more appropriate cannabis policies. They also restrict the accumulation of new evidence to inform the development of new evidence-based systems of control. While in principle these Conventions can be amended, this is not a practical possibility at the present time. The alternative, which is explored in the Commission's Draft Framework on Cannabis Control, is to adopt a new convention, which could be modeled on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This treaty, which was adopted in 2003 and came into force in 2005, was the first to be negotiated under WHO auspices.   The Time Is Now   The work of the Global Cannabis Commission is a compelling resource for the development of evidence-based cannabis policies and provides a model for reformers and policymakers to challenge the basic premises of marijuana prohibition. Today's drug chaos is the inevitable result of prohibition. Cannabis has been easily produced around the world for thousands of years, making its eradication effectively impossible. Prohibition entails the opposite of drug control by completely abdicating regulation to the black market -- as the Commission puts it, "That which is prohibited cannot be easily regulated." The tobacco example underscores the fact that drug regulation is not a step into the unknown -- we have centuries of experience in legally regulating thousands of different drugs. In fact, tobacco use has declined dramatically in the U.S. over the past generation without using the criminal justice system to punish tobacco users. If ever there were a time for political leaders, in the U.S. and abroad, to engage in an honest and open review of cannabis prohibition, it is now. In one of this year's most promising developments, U.S. Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) have introduced a bill to create a commission that would undertake an 18-month study of the criminal justice system and make legislative recommendations -- and an overhaul of cannabis laws will be on the table. Meanwhile, in Mexico, growing appetite for reform prompted the Mexican Congress to convene a three-day debate on the decriminalization and regulation of cannabis earlier this month. In contrast, President Obama appears a little caught off-guard by the public's appetite for marijuana reform. When recently forced to address the subject of marijuana legalization, he laughed it off but curiously offered no arguments to defend his position. Let's make sure our policy makers know that they can no longer evade the basic truth that the prohibition of cannabis causes more harm than the plant itself -- and that any marijuana “control” policy that intends to protect children, families, and communities must include sensible regulation. Jag Davies is U.S. public policy coordinator at the Beckley Foundation.Global Cannabis Commission: AlterNet (US)Author: Jag Davies, AlterNetPublished: April 22, 2009Copyright: 2009 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #11 posted by Sam Adams on April 23, 2009 at 14:29:33 PT
looks good to me
I like what these Beckley people are doing - basically they're just articulating the ways to admit defeat on cannabis prohibition for people with huge egos.People who have been drunk on tyranny and power for decades simply aren't able to just say "we were totally wrong, repeal everything", they'll need a fancy exit strategy to make them feel like they're not admitting defeat.As I've said before though, state-level referendums have so far been most successful in rolling back cannabis laws NOW, not later.
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Comment #10 posted by AdaptBones on April 23, 2009 at 11:39:52 PT:
Let's Hope
While I agree with you museman I also find myself willing to accept this "compromise" with one hand while still reaching out my other hand to take back the rest of our freedom. And why shouldn't we? The powers that be seem to be seeing a possible end to their long reign and they are trying to put forth compromises so that we become good subserviant slaves again. So why shouldn't we take what they are willing to give if it improves and strengthens the movement? Why would we NOT want to take that "crumb" of freedom and still seek the rest of the cake? We can't back down and fall back into the status quo but I don't see accepting what they are willing to offer us as any type of stopping point. We can not rest until we regain all that we have allowed to be taken from us. But as I see it, if this goes through it will help us and that is good; but we can't let it be the end. I think that is the most important part. Blessed be.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on April 23, 2009 at 10:37:40 PT
I agree. 
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Comment #8 posted by museman on April 23, 2009 at 10:33:48 PT
FoM, dongenero
Solidarity is a powerful thing, 
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Comment #7 posted by dongenero on April 23, 2009 at 08:39:33 PT
great points made here museman
"Freedom and liberty do not belong to these people to be doled out according to their 'guidelines' for profiteering and maintenance of the powers that be.""You cannot be made free, you are created free, and can only be made unfree."I think through this current state of global and US crisis, monetary and otherwise, many are catching a good glimpse behind the curtain to the powers that be and understanding where the power lies and who pulls the strings globally and how. Much of the inner mechanization of US and global financial power are still being hidden but much has been revealed as well. More will come to light, I believe, as these financial issue continue.In the end I hope it will lead to increased transparency and honesty in government policy and action. That would bode well for OUR cause of freedom.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on April 23, 2009 at 08:29:03 PT
We've been listening to Bob Marley today so maybe my mood is just sort of Bob Marley right now. I feel totally free today. It's a beautiful cool Spring Day and I thank God we are all still alive. Freedom is in our minds I believe. We can trap ourselves as many do to this life as we see it everyday or the way that is good for us. If we want to change the world for the better we should just keep putting one foot in front of the other, hold our heads high and smile. It's contagious just as anger and hatred are contagious. I'd rather skip thru life then walk slow with my head down. I hope this makes sense. I understand exactly where you are coming from.
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Comment #5 posted by museman on April 23, 2009 at 08:18:10 PT
trick ponies
Even as we recognize the stupidity, waste, destructiveness, immoral, and unethical polgrom against people who like to arrange their thoughts in a certain way -oriented towards common sense, and commonality in relationship to the earth and life upon it- to acknowledge that any of these status-quo appointees to power that can decide our futures and choices like the Big Brothers they think they are, is going backwards, compromising and capitulating with errant, false authority into the very same corruption that the entire purpose of the mind expansion, spiritual revolution, and elevation of the collective consciousness is all about.Freedom and liberty do not belong to these people to be doled out according to their 'guidelines' for profiteering and maintenance of the powers that be.The 'Cannabis Commisssion' is a trick pony that will perform certain compromising tricks to modify illicit governance to accomodate more thievery by the wealthy, from the rest of us.Haven't we seen enough the last decade to realize that none of these people who serve mammon, greed, posession, property, power, false authority -who claim to 'know better' than you or me, based on some arbitrary criteria that they invented back when they were Godkings, are not 'public servants,' they are not 'representatives' of anything but their own agenda of power and control?And yet, we'd say that this 'commission' of the very ilk that currently enslaves the world is going to do us righteous?Its taken a long time to get to this place where the ancient foundations of lies, subterfuge, deception, and false doctrines, has been shaken loose enough that anyone can see the truth if they let go of their fearful attachments to taking personal responsibility in their lives.Here is a truth;"You cannot be made free, you are created free, and can only be made unfree."Who gave these people the authority to juggle people lives and freedom like artifacts and props on the stage of the selective few? They took it for themselves a long tme ago, and we've been struggling ever since to get it back. So now that we are on the verge of global consciousness, lets give it up and let our 'betters' finish for us? Ya I can see where this is going.Defiance of false authority is paramount in this pivotal era. Allowing such select members of the status quo to do our thinking for us, speak for us, act for us, and then have some kind of expectation that anything is really going to change is probably the most stupid thing I have ever seen in the compromises and capitulations that people are seemingly so willing to roll over and take up the rear.I find this sickening. These people should probably all be put in some kind of prison for the policies, acts, 'legislation', and status quo relationships that by their very existence causes pain, suffering, and eco destruction in the world, yet we are ready to let them go for it some more? And under OUR banner?You want to ride the trick ponies? Be my guest. When you find out that you've been ridden instead, hopefully most of the youth that are realizing that these circus clowns from hell serve no purpose but their own will be able to have the strength to refuse to give up their own power so easily to such crap-headed pony trickers, and they will be there to help you learn to think for yourselves.FREE (as in non-gratis, non-regulated, non-taxed, non-criminalized, non-stigma, etc.) CANNABIS FOREVER 
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Comment #4 posted by Brandon Perera on April 23, 2009 at 06:59:42 PT
There has to be something the people can do to help the world besides calling your rep. Growing should show something to people, you are helping the environment. Why do they call marijuana a cannabis a weed? because it thrives on life. I hear it can break through snow and if it can survive n afghan. Then we dont have to worry about the climate change bill capn n trade ne more. They talk about approving energy efficient facilities that will be good. Nothing wrong with trying to improve longterm businesses energy efficiently so they will be able to survive at there same status. We would be a happy country being able 2 grow. Especially hemp. That is everything in the world. Law has no rights illegalling the most popular material in the world. 
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on April 23, 2009 at 06:42:27 PT
I really hope they have a plan. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on April 23, 2009 at 06:41:15 PT
Sounds like the Commission has a plan.
"The Commission identifies and analyzes potential routes forward -- depenalization, decriminalization, partial legality, and, finally, a regulated legal market."Sounds good. I hope they can get it done.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 23, 2009 at 06:08:14 PT
Bill Moyers Talks Drugs, Crime, Journalism 
Bill Moyers Talks Drugs, Crime, Journalism and Democracy with Creator of 'The Wire'April 21, 2009URL:
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