International commission critical of Colombia’s anti-drug policies

Policeman looks at a marijuana plant (Photo: National Police)

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) has produced a report in which it is critical of anti-drug strategies pursued by Colombia, declaring punitive and prohibitionist policies a failure and suggesting a move towards legalization and regulation.

Released on Tuesday, the report outlines seven recommendations on how to improve drug policy around the world, encouraging the world to take advantage of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session to implement these changes.

Decriminalizing possession and consumption of drugs are part of strategy recommended, in addition to finding alternatives to incarceration for “low-level participants” in the drug trade like farmers and couriers.

MORE: Colombia Drug Consumption Up 38% Since 2008: Report

Failures in Colombian policy

The GCDP report makes several criticisms of the Colombian government’s policies with respect to the “War on Drugs.”

In a section entitled “Counting the costs of over have a century of the ‘war on drugs,'” the report mentions that part of Colombia’s anti-drug policy from 2000 to 2007 involved the spraying of toxic chemicals in an effort to eradicate illicit crops.

“Despite their destructive impact on livelihoods and land, the number of locations used for illicit coca cultivation actually increased during this period,” the report said.

Coca cultivation in Colombia (UNODC)

FACT SHEET: Coca cultivation in Colombia

The lucrative illicit drug trade undermines economies and deteriorates governance, partly by providing significant financial resources to be used for bribes. It claims that “[a]s of 2011, Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking groups launder up to $39 billion a year in wholesale distribution proceeds.”

In portion devoted to dealing drug-traffickers and organized crime, the GCDP was critical of the Colombian government’s militarized response, claiming, “all-out militarized enforcement responses have, counter-intuitively, undermined security.”

The report also quotes the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy’s 2009 report, which claimed that “[f]or decades, Colombia implemented all conceivable measures to fight the drug trade in a massive effort whose benefits were not proportional to the vast amount of resources invested and the human costs involved.

“Despite the country’s significant achievements in fighting the drug cartels and lowering the levels of violence and crime, the areas of illegal cultivation are again expanding as well as the flow of drugs coming out of Colombia and the Andean region.”

MORE: Coca cultivation in Colombia up slightly in 2013

Towards legalization, regulation

The GCPD’s report that claims that the criminalization of drug use and possession has been ineffective. In fact, it claims that it has “no impact on levels of drug use in an open society.”

Alcohol, tobacco, and other legal forms of drugs are said to be helpful models. As opposed to a completely prohibitionist approach or a totally unregulated legal market, the report suggests a middle ground in which legal drugs are available with government regulation.

Graph (Global Commission on Drug Policy’s September 2014 report)

GCDP’s members include: Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General;  Cesar Gaviria, former President of Colombia; Mario Varas Llosa, a Peruvian writer and intellectual; George Schultz, former United States Secretary of State, and other former diplomats and government officials.

MORE: ‘It is time to think again about the war on drugs’: Santos


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