Former Mexican President Vicente Fox made a passionate and powerful call for an end to the war on drugs and called on the United States to legalize drugs to help reduce the violence in Mexico in an interview with BBC TV this week. Fox is critical of current Mexican President Calderon and the U.S. government's counterproductive "drug control" strategy -- and says they are responsible for the 50,000 prohibition-related deaths in Mexico in just the last five years.
Fox explains that the United States should learn from the history of alcohol prohibition and that the answer to today's violence is to legalize drugs and treat them as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue.
When the BBC reporter implies that he is naïve to think the US will legalize drugs, Fox points out that public opinion is changing rapidly. He mentions that a Gallup poll this week showed for the first time that 50 percent of Americans support making marijuana legal.
President Fox is part of a growing choir of world leaders speaking out against the drug war. This summer, the Global Commission on Drug Policy made worldwide news when they called for far-reaching changes in the global drug prohibition regime -- including not just alternatives to incarceration and greater emphasis on public health approaches to drug use but also decriminalization and experiments in legal regulation. The Commission is comprised of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan; Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; four former presidents, including the commission's chairman, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil; George P. Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State; Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve; and several other distinguished world leaders.
Building on the Global Commission, there will be a major event on November 15th, organized by the libertarian CATO Institute, called "Ending the Global War," featuring heavy hitters like former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Castaneda, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Anastasia O'Grady and others.
The voices rising up against the failed drug war are not only at the "grasstops" level. Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed earlier this year in drug war violence, has mobilized tens of thousands of people across Mexico to demand an end to the war. Sicilia is participating in the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles, where more than 1,000 people from around the world -- including many formerly incarcerated people and other victims of the drug war -- are going to meet on November 2nd-5th.
President Fox and Javier Sicilia are pointing out the obvious: the war on drugs has failed. We need to join them. We need to find an exit strategy from this unwinnable war.
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)