Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says the war on drugs has failed

published on April 22, 2016 by Jon Greenberg in Politifact

Several Latin American and European countries pressed their case to decriminalize drugs at a special session of the United Nations this week. They came up short. The document that emerged maintained a basic prohibitionist stance. But the advocates for a softer touch did garner some prominent backers, including former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who argued in an op-ed that the war on drugs has failed.

“Prohibition has had little impact on the supply of or demand for drugs,” Annan wrote. “When law enforcement succeeds in one area, drug production simply moves to another region or country, drug trafficking moves to another route and drug users switch to a different drug. Nor has prohibition significantly reduced use. Studies have consistently failed to establish the existence of a link between the harshness of a country’s drug laws and its levels of drug use.”

Measuring the effectiveness of prohibitions can be tricky. For this fact-check, we’re looking into theconnection between getting tough on drugs and less use.

We reached out to the Kofi Annan Foundation and did not hear back, so we don’t know what specific studies he had in mind. We reached out to several experts in the field and generally, they agreed with his statement.

Jonathan Caulkins, professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, has worked on some of the broadest examinations of drugs in America. Caulkins was part of the team that wrote the U.S. Office of National Drug Policy’s latest assessment of how much users spend on drugs.

View the full article