Five Ex-Presidents Just Say No To The Disastrous War on Drugs
Five former presidents from around the world are adding their voices to a new book calling for an end to the failed and disgraceful War on Drugs. “Ending the War on Drugs” is edited by Sir Richard Branson and includes essays by former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss and former Brazilian president Henrique Fernando Cardoso. Also submitting essays are former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, and former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria, along with several other ex-officials and academics — all trying to stop what we know, now, has never worked.
Why Former Swiss and Nigerian Presidents are Fighting War on Drugs
Most Americans have an idea as to why former Latin American leaders would be interested in changing tactics on this issue, but many may not be as familiar with the reasons Dreifuss and Obasanjo would be on board. Switzerland had a heroin problem reaching epidemic levels in the early 1990s and decided to drastically change course. The government began providing addicts with safer, pharmaceutical-grade heroin in an effort to treat addicts and the results were incredible. Overdose deaths, HIV infections, property crime and new heroin users plunged by huge percentages, and Switzerland became a model for how to successfully treat drug addiction.
In Nigeria, a key reason for changing tactics is different but just as important: drug trafficking is financing terrorism. It is apparent that Boko Haram is partly financing its very bloody actions by, at the very least, protecting the routes drugs are taking when being smuggled through Nigeria. And Nigeria is just one cog in the huge machine of drugs being trafficked across Africa and into other continents. It is estimated that 40 percent of Europe’s cocaine initially runs through Africa.
The danger in continuing the fatal War on Drugs becomes more clear everyday. One of the most recent illustrations of this occurred after the Russian annexation of Crimea. Russia immediately banned illegal drugs and stopped treatment programs for drug users and the results speak for themselves. Out of 800 addicts in the program, at least 100 died of overdoses or suicide in the first year alone. It is one of the starkest examples of the horrific failure of drug prohibition ever imagined.
But things seem to be changing in many countries and, despite the racist beginnings of the War on Drugs, even the hard-lined United States is starting to soften. From commuting prison sentences to very successful legalization initiatives, America is slowly but surely coming around to the idea that the first path taken was a disaster and a different tactic is needed.
The legalization of marijuana in the U.S. is blazing the path for a brighter future as 35 states now have some form of legalization. U.S. laws will very likely further loosen with at least 20 states considering ballot initiatives regarding marijuana in the coming election. And with these changes being as successful as they have been, it’s not unreasonable to think a softer approach to other drugs like heroin might be right around the corner.
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