In 1971 President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.”  This action lead to countries all over the world to criminalize the use of drugs.  Now leading medical experts are arguing this tactic has been misguided and are pushing for the legalization of nonviolent drugs.

These 22 medical experts are asking countries to take a scientific approach to illegal drugs.”The goal of prohibiting all use, possession, production, and trafficking of illicit drugs is the basis of many of our national drug laws, but these policies are based on ideas about drug use and drug dependence that are not scientifically grounded,” said panel commissioner Chris Beyrer from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The report will be presented at the UN General Assembly Session on drugs next month.  With an almost universal approach to drug control, prohibition, the report claims these policies have “directly and indirectly contribute[d] to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice, and the undermining of people’s right to health”.

The report also claims that current drug policies are discriminatory against racial and ethnic minorities.  It is advising the UN to address the drug problem with the available scientific evidence.

They show that over the past 50 years of the war on drugs, no measureable impact on supply or use has occurred.  However countries like Portugal and the Czech Republic have already decriminalized non-violent minor drug offenses with evidence that this approach can have positive impact.

The report cites, “significant financial savings, less incarceration, significant public health benefits, and no significant increase in drug use” as the most significant changes brought on by these new policies, and urges that the US government and leaders from other countries “move gradually toward regulated drug markets and apply the scientific method to their assessment”.

The Portugal and Czech Republic plans make a distinction between drug use and drug abuse.  Currently, the law in most countries states a complete abstinence from illicit drugs.  This forces drug use into the shadows away from medical monitoring.

The prohibition approach has also lead to a odd situations with legal and sometimes legal drugs like alcohol, tobacco and cannabis.  The government taking a stand on what drugs are dangerous despite the lack of scientific evidence to support their stance.

“The idea that all drug use is dangerous and evil has led to enforcement-heavy policies and has made it difficult to see potentially dangerous drugs in the same light as potentially dangerous foods, tobacco, and alcohol, for which the goal of social policy is to reduce potential harms,” the report states.

The report points to numerous negative effects of the current policies.  “Striking increase” in homicide rates in Mexico linked to drug illicit drug trade, overcrowded jails that are loaded with drug users and higher rates of HIV and Hepatitis C infection.