The World Economic Forum in Davos will host a plenary session on drug policy onThursday, January 23. This is the first time that the prestigious gathering has given such prominence to the issue.
The panel, moderated by Univision anchor Enrique Acevedo, is called "The Drugs Dilemma: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business." Former UN head Kofi Annan, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth and Texas Governor Rick Perry will be on the panel.
"I've long wondered what it would take to persuade the Davos organizers to put drug policy on the main stage of the forum," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "They clearly were moved by the fact that some of the world's most distinguished statesmen, including former UN Secretary Kofi Annan and former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, are now deeply committed to ending the global war on drugs and pushing the envelope of drug decriminalization. Drug policy reform as a global political movement has come of age."
In recent years, debate and political will for drug policy reform has gained unprecedented momentum in many parts of the world, especially Latin America and the U.S.
In 2011, Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker and Richard Branson joined former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), César Gaviria (Colombia) and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico) and other distinguished members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy in saying the time had come to "break the taboo" on exploring alternatives to the failed war on drugs -- and to "encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs," especially marijuana. More recently, current presidents Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia, Otto Perez Molina in Guatemala, and José Mujica in Uruguay have joined these calls for reform. In May, the Organization of American States produced a report, commissioned by heads of state of the region, that included marijuana legalization as a likely policy alternative.
Meanwhile, marijuana legalization has moved into the mainstream of U.S. and international politics now that Colorado, Washington -- and as of last month, Uruguay -- have become the first political jurisdictions in the world to approve the legal regulation of marijuana.
In an interview with the New Yorker published Sunday, President Obama spoke about his past drug use, said marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, criticized racial disparities in marijuana arrests and said the new laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington are 'important'.
The failed global war on drugs has dragged on for decades. It is time to put all options on the table and find an exit strategy from the this unwinnable war.
"The Drugs Dilemma: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business" panel takes placeThursday, January 23 at 2:45 pm Davos Time and 8:45 am ET. You can view all panels and sessions at http://www.weforum.org/
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)
Follow Tony Newman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TonyNewmanDPA