Rethinking The War On Drugs

A major international panel says the war on drugs has failed. That we need to step back and rethink, again. We’ll do that.

Panama City police cut open packages of cocaine before burning narcotics during a drug disposal operation in May 20, 2011. Officials said they burned 6.5 tons of drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, heroin and ecstasy. (AP)

Panama City police cut open 6.5 tons worth of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and ecstasy before setting them ablaze during a drug disposal operation. (AP)

The war on drugs is old and broken.

The war on drugs is still with us, in its fundamentals: crackdown and incarceration. Last week, a high-level international panel said we’ve got to break the logjam.

Former Latin American heads of state, a UN chief, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former U.S. Fed chief Paul Volker –- all saying the global war on drugs has failed.

U.S. prisons are jammed. Mexico’s in big trouble. We shut it down in one country, it goes to another.

The drugs roll on.

This hour On Point: looking for a new way on drugs.

- Tom Ashbrook


Bruce Bagley, professor of international relations and chair of the department of international studies at the University of Miami.

Dr. Thomas McLellan, professor at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He served as the nation’s deputy Drug Czar and is currently the director of the Penn Center for Substance Abuse Solutions.

Cesar Gaviria, former president of Colombia from 1990-1994 and a commissioner of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.


  • A report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy makes its position clear in the first sentence: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
  • Here’s a provocative gallery of photos from Life magazine, chronicling the Mexican government’s battle with drug cartels. The photos are graphic in nature.
  • The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy heads up the U.S. anti-drug effort.
  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime publishes an annual report on illegal drugs world-wide.
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