Ruth Dudley Edwards: Forget failed war on drugs, we need to make our peace
If we had the courage to legalise all drugs, we could transform so many lives, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
'I SAW at close range the failure of the US War on Drugs," wrote Conrad Black in his first post-prison article, "with absurd sentences, (including 20 years for marijuana offences, although 42 per cent of Americans have used marijuana and it is the greatest cash crop in California). A trillion dollars have been spent, a million easily replaceable small fry are in prison, and the targeted substances are more available and of better quality than ever, while producing countries such as Colombia and Mexico are in a state of civil war."
He's right, you know. The war on drugs has failed everywhere, and the consequences are all about us in violence, corruption, bulging prisons and wasted lives. The Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, surveying the nightmare that is his country, has just called for a "fundamental debate" on drug legalisation. After four years in office, faced with 28,000 dead from drug-war murders during that period, he is prepared at last to open his mind.
Last year, Fernando Henriques Cardoso, ex-president of Brazil, called for a policy of harm-reduction through education, treatment and prevention rather than repression. In Latin America, he wrote, 'the "unintended" consequences [of the war on drugs] have been disastrous. Thousands of people have lost their lives in drug-associated violence. Drug lords have taken over entire communities. Misery has spread. Corruption is undermining fragile democracies . . . continuing the drugs war with more of the same is ludicrous."