War on Drugs a Costly Failure

After 40 years of failure in dealing with drug abuse as a criminal problem, it’s time to listen to the experts and recognize it as a health issue.

Two health policy groups based in this province have helped launched an international effort to tackle the damage done by drug abuse and addiction in a new way. The principle being advanced by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy is simple.

Using a scientific approach, determine what works to reduce the damage done to individuals and societies, and what doesn’t. Then do those things that are effective and quit doing those that are ineffective — or worse, destructive.

The fact that this proposal is controversial shows how completely illogical the drug policy debate has become.

The groups and the International AIDS Society have drafted what they are calling the Vienna Declaration in advance of next month’s AIDS conference in that city.


The effort to address drug abuse and addiction and the resulting crime, health and social problems has not only failed, but had negative consequences, the declaration states. “The criminalization of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences,” it says.

The consequences of the current failure can be seen around the world — in Mexico, where drug gangs wage vicious war; in Afghanistan, where opium production helps fund the Taliban’s war effort; in the U.S., where billion are spent on enforcement efforts and in jails.

And in Victoria, where addiction is responsible for 90 per cent of property crime and much of the street disorder.

The current policies are enormously expensive and have been totally ineffectual.

The declaration proposes “the redirection of the vast financial resources towards where they are needed most: Implementing and evaluating evidence-based prevention, regulatory, treatment and harm reduction interventions.”

Criminalizing drug use simply has not worked. The “war on drugs” was officially launched 39 years ago by then-U.S. president Richard Nixon. After decades of effort by police, drugs are more readily available, cheaper and of better quality than ever. Drug profits have fuelled the growth of organized crime. Addiction has claimed millions of victims. Jails are overflowing and countless families lives have been shattered.

A science-based approach doesn’t mean a free and open drug trade. But it would likely see a regulated supply of drugs and decriminalization of the user. And the approach is neither radical or untested. Portugal decriminalized all drug use in 2001, with positive results.

In any case, continuing down the same path would be stupid. The war on drugs has wasted taxpayers’ money for no public benefit and, in fact, increased the damage done by drugs.

Drug policies shaped by ideology, politics and prejudice have failed. It’s time to deal with drug use as a health and social policy issue, with decisions based on fact-based assessment of their effectiveness.

– Article from Victoria Times Colonist.



  1. Anonymous on

    So the truth is out now, Nixon simply ignored the recommendations of the scientists and arbitrarily put Cannabis in Schedule 1 of his very own CSA. Now we know that Cannabis laws are based on a completely arbitrary classification simply made up by the peanut-like brain of Richard Nixon, AKA, the devil himself. Now the Supreme Court has to strike down that law for the reason that it is arbitrary, thereby violating the fundamental principals of justice. Exhibit A) Shafer Report, exhibit B) the CSA, exhibit C) big picture of Nixon, exhibit D) big picture of the devil. I rest my case.

    The most galling thing is that the UN actually got away with adopting Nixon’s made up scheduling system. WTF? Who oversees the UN? Apparently, the Solar Federation has to step in and assume control.

  2. Derrick Stromhauer on

    That son of a walrus Richard Nixon was the fartknocker who devised the CSA.

    This man, the only American President to have actually had to leave office prior to the end of his term is still haunting the entire world over thirty years later!

    I say when a President is forced from office, every single bit of legislation signed into law by that individual must go under heavy scrutiny and review.

    In this case, the Shafer Report, commissioned by Richard Nixon himself, states that, “On the basis of our findings, discussed in previous Chapters, we have concluded that society should seek to discourage use, while concentrating its attention on the prevention and treatment of heavy and very heavy use. The Commission feels that the criminalization of possession of marihuana for personal is socially self-defeating as a means of achieving this objective. We have attempted to balance individual freedom on one hand and the obligation of the state to consider the wider social good on the other. We believe our recommended scheme will permit society to exercise its control and influence in ways most useful and efficient, meanwhile reserving to the individual American his sense of privacy, his sense of individuality, and, within the context of ail interacting and interdependent society, his options to select his own life style, values, goals and opportunities (http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/nc/ncmenu.htm (1972)).”

    So, basically, “Nixon himself, based on his zealous personal preferences, overruled the commission’s research and doomed marijuana to its current illegal status. This newly revealed information comes from declassified tapes of Oval Office conversations from 1971 and 1972, which show Nixon’s aggressive anti-drug stance putting him directly at odds against many of his close advisors (http://www.annieappleseedproject.org/nixtapshowwh.html (2002)).”

    We got rid of Nixon once, let’s once and for all destroy the legacy that man left behind, terrorizing our citizens, and shaping identical policies for the rest of the world.


  3. moldy on

    Tell us something we in the cannabis world don’t already know. This is now a world where police budgets and prison quotas stop all rational discussion on reform. We’re talking jobs created off the backs of mostly cannabis users and when people depend on those arrests to feed their families they’ll do or say anything to prevent truth from killing their cash cow. We’ve seen it for decades now.