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The war on drugs: a lost cause?

We’re devoting tonight’s D-block to the subject of drugs. President Nixon launched the war on drugs 40 years ago.

We’re devoting tonight’s D-block to the subject of drugs. President Nixon launched the war on drugs 40 years ago. But a new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy — composed of former presidents, prime ministers and other worldwide leaders — suggests these crackdowns have done more harm than good. The report says usage has actually increased in from 1998 to 2008 alone: opiate use is up 34.5 percent, cocaine use is up 27 percent and marijuana is up 8.5 percent. So basically, all those “this is your brain on drugs” PSAs with the scrambled eggs didn’t help.

President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, calling for the end to war on drugs as we know it and offers up some alternative suggestions on how to stop the illegal trade of drugs:

In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”These ideas were widely accepted at the time. But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan and Congress began to shift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries.This approach entailed an enormous expenditure of resources and the dependence on police and military forces to reduce the foreign cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy and the production of cocaine and heroin. 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.The commission’s facts and arguments are persuasive. It recommends that governments be encouraged to experiment “with models of legal regulation of drugs ... that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.” For effective examples, they can look to policies that have shown promising results in Europe, Australia and other places.

Tune in at 8pm ET for more on this story. We’ll be joined by Michelle Alexander.

What’s your stance on the issue? Tell us in the comment space below.