6/3/2011 – Regulating cannabis for adults could help the world take a public health approach to addiction. That was the message from several members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy who gathered in New York City on June 2, 2011.
The former Presidents of Switzerland, Colombia and Brazil joined Sir Richard Branson at a crowded news conference to discuss their new report calling for an end to the war on drugs.
Cannabis was a central theme, in two languages. Freedomisgreen.com covered the landmark event.
“For cannabis…Countries should be able to experiment with regulation,” said Fernanado Henrique Cardoso, the former President of Brazil.
Cesar Gaviria, the former President of Colombia, discussed treating cannabis like alcohol and tobacco, “When it comes to someone smoking some marijuana, people should not be sent to a jail,“ Gaviria said.
He repeated his calls for “marijuana” regulation in Spanish for the international press.
Ruth Dreifuss, the former President of Switzerland, discussed public health approaches to heroin and other addictions that have seen success in Europe. Her country attempted to regulate the cannabis market last year.
“I don’t believe in ideology,” said Dreifuss discussing the uphill battle for the issue,”I believe in results.”
Showing courageous solidarity in the formal report and the live news conference, the Commission calls the current US policy of prohibition a “failure” by any measure. The group of respected dignitaries seemed to be addressing one person: US President Barack Obama.
The speakers, especially Cardoso and Gaviria, hinted that the United States will need to move first to regulate marijuana so that other countries have the chance to consider the option. The UN Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs was amended in concert with the creation of the US Controlled Substances Act in 1971; this is essentially why American-style marijuana prohibition is enforced around the world.
International businessman Sir Richard Branson addressed the big picture, “It is time to re-write the rules,” Branson said at the news conference, adding, “It is time we move towards policies that end prohibition.”
The Commission is also getting a tremendous boost of public support. Ricken Patel, director of the organizing website Avaaz.org spoke about how impressed, if not downright shocked, he was by the public response to an online petition. Patel reported that almost 600,000 signatures had already been gathered to support the Commission’s efforts.
Although they were looking to break taboo about drug policy there was one word that the panel seemed somewhat shy of using: legalization. The term ‘decriminalization’ was more comfortable for the group of practiced diplomats.
Cardoso said towards the end, “It’s not that we don’t have the courage to say ‘legalize’ it is just that we need the right moment.”
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy quickly condemned the report. But Gaviria pointed out that President Obama on the ONDCP have already started to eliminate ‘war on drugs’ as part of the common policy rhetoric. Gaviria suggested they go a step further than language.
Branson said that the world needed to press for top-level leadership, saying, “We just need brave politicians to get on and do what’s right for their people.”
The Global Commission on Drug Policy will present their 24-page report and the Avaaz.org petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday June 3, 2011.
Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York advises the Global Commission and closed the news conference by saying, “The great hope here is that we start a debate nationally and internationally.”
Hundreds of news outlets are covering the report so the Commission has successfully given some momentum to the issue. What remains to be seen is whether the most powerful voice, the United States, will discuss these concepts at all.
There has never been such concentrated pressure from international leaders on a US President and Congress to begin a serious policy debate about regulating domestic marijuana sales to adults.
Legalizing marijuana in America is clearly an issue of global importance.
More photos from the news conference – http://tinyurl.com/4y9mmvl
Video news report:
Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? [email protected]