Jimmy Carter: End the Global War on Drugs

Friday, 17 Jun 2011 01:19 PM

By Andra Varin

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Jimmy Carter is just saying no to the war on drugs.

The former president argues in an Op-Ed published Thursday in The New York Times that U.S. drug policy has backfired in a terrible way by helping to escalate violence in Latin America.

Fighting the war on drugs abroad has cost the U.S. millions of dollars, while at home, it has caused our prison populations to swell, Carter says.

He writes that he pushed to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, with an emphasis on treatment for the user.

The Reagan administration, however, “began to sift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile attempts to control drug imports from foreign countries,” Carter writes.

As those countries try to eradicate marijuana, coca, poppy cultivation, they run up against the wrath of the drug gangs.

“One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries,” Carter says.

He cited a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which says its mission is to seek “humane and effective ways” to reduce the negative effects of drugs on society.

“The global war on drugs has failed,” the commission’s report says.

It says when the drug war began 40 years ago, policymakers believed attacking production and harshly punishing users was the way to go.

“In practice, the global scale of illegal drug markets – largely controlled by organized crime – has grown dramatically over this period,” the report says.

Carter concurs, and he’s also worried about the effect imprisonment of nonviolent, recreational users has on American society.

“About three-quarters of new admissions to state prisons are for nonviolent crimes. And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs,” the former president writes.

“Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets,” he says.

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