Time to change direction on drugs policy, say economists

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The pursuit of a ‘militarised and enforcement-led’ global drugs strategy has resulted in ‘enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage’, according to a new report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). 

Among these are worldwide human rights abuses, widespread violence in Latin America, Russia’s HIV epidemic, corruption and political destabilisation in Afghanistan and West Africa and ‘mass incarceration’ in the US, says Ending the drug wars. The document includes a call from five Nobel Prize economists for resources to be redirected towards ‘effective, evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis’. 

Proven public health and harm reduction policies should be prioritised, it says, with states allowed to pursue new initiatives to determine what works and ‘rigorously monitored’ policy and regulatory experiments encouraged. The document calls on the UN to 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’.

Among the report’s other signatories are ministers from the governments of Guatemala and Colombia and UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. 

‘The drug war’s failure has been recognised by public health professionals, security experts, human rights authorities and now some of the world’s most respected economists,’ said the report’s editor, John Collins. ‘It will take time for a new international strategy to emerge. However, the most immediate task is ensuring a sound economic basis for the policies, and then to reallocate international resources accordingly.’

Ending the drug wars: report of the LSE expert group on the economics of drug policy at www.lse.ac.uk