The Global Commission on Drug Policy: Addressing Cannabis Legalization

posted by on November 11th 2011

February 2009 saw the publication of a statement from the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, entitled “Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift.” It was widely covered by regional and global media and the ensuing debate led to positive drug policy changes in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.

Following this success, the Global Commission on Drug Policy was formed, with several members of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy in its ranks. In 2011 the Global Commission released a report entitled ‘War On Drugs’ which took both the data and the debate to a worldwide level.

The Commission is now preparing another six papers covering its main areas of enquiry – the results of current drug-control measures, harm reduction and suggestions for improved policies. Naturally, more attention is focused on hard drugs due to the far greater damage associated with them; however, two of these papers will specifically address the issue of cannabis legalisation and decriminalisation.

From Paper 4: Criminal justice challenges

Members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Risks and benefits of eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana possession for personal use and other forms of sentencing reform.

The Commission’s purpose is “to bring to the international level an informed, science-based discussion about humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies.

Experience with cannabis

Although a significant proportion of the population in most countries has some experience of cannabis, the fact remains that the majority of people do not. Since this majority may have no personal interest in whether or not cannabis is legal, there is little reason to dig deeper into the issue or examine the validity of the claims made  in the mass media and by government sources such as the USA’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) and its international sibling the UNODC.

Such entities do a very effective job of presenting a unified front of marijuana misinformation to the public. They promote the same cycle of speculative health risks supposedly linked to cannabis, referencing the same flawed studies, while selectively and unanimously ignoring the preponderance of evidence that cannabis is a useful medicine and a non-toxic recreational drug.

Harm caused by current drug laws

Given this situation, the work of organisations such as the Global Commission on Drug Policy is especially important. Crucially, the Commission recognises the fact that a majority of the harm caused to individuals and societies that is commonly associated with drug use, trafficking and production is actually a result of drug laws and drug control policies, not the substances themselves.

Drugs are a complex and controversial issue. There is a growing perception that the ‘war on drugs’ approach has failed. Eradication of production and criminalization of consumption did not reduce drug traffic and drug use. In many countries the harm caused by drug prohibition in terms of corruption, violence and violation of human rights largely exceeds the harm caused by drugs.”

Members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy

The Commission comprises an impressive list of politicians and public figures. Members include:

  • Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations
  • George Shultz, former US Secretary of State and first prominent Republican to call for the legalisation of cannabis and other recreational drugs.
  • Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and advocate for social causes
  • Former leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Mexico, and Switzerland
  • Former high-ranking officials from Spain, Germany, France, Norway, and the United Nations

An invaluable resource on an interesting subject

More often than not, cannabis enthusiasts take an interest in the subject of prohibition and drug policy in their region or, indeed, the world at large. Of course, there are many reasons for this (it’s an interesting subject, after all), but one of the most common paths must be the simple progression from experiencing the positive effects of cannabis, to researching the plant and its history, to wondering how on earth any government can justify prohibiting cannabis, let alone punishing and imprisoning its own citizens for using it.

Whether your interest in cannabis is intellectual – in support of rational laws and social justice; medicinal – providing access to a safe and effective medicine; recreational – being allowed to appreciate cannabis for its many other benefits; or agricultural – inspired by the enormous potential of cannabis seeds and industrial hemp, the Commission’s work is an invaluable resource.

Correction 5/12/2011:

This post originally stated that the report ‘Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift’ was presented by the GCDP, whereas it was actually presented by their predecessor, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy. The first paragraph has now been edited to correct this.

Studying cannabis and its effects since 1995, educating the masses ever since.
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  1. Shella
    Posted 15/11/2011 at 01:52 | Permalink

    It is usually difficult to get qualified persons within this issue, you seem like you no doubt know exactly what you are referring to! Appreciate it

  2. Swliv
    Posted 26/11/2011 at 02:05 | Permalink

    You've mixed up two commissions, I'm quite certain, here.… issued its report in 2011; I expect most of what you've written about above is in fact about the GCDP.
    BUT the 2009 "Paradigm Shift" report was issued by a sort of predecessor commission
    As best I understand it. I did both of those Wiki articles; and had to do a little more work to sort out the above and bring the LAI article up to speed. There was quite an overlap in membership, goals, even output, I'd say, in GCDP from LAI, but they were distinct. Again, as best I understand. FWIW. Cheers.

    • Sensi Seeds
      Posted 29/11/2011 at 15:05 | Permalink

      Hello Swliv,

      The ‘predecessor commission’ did issue the ‘Paradigm Shift’ report, but the GCoDP website talks about the predecessor basically being the same organisation.

      Maybe they need to clarify that point on the GCoDP?

      Thank you very much for your comment!

  3. Swliv
    Posted 03/12/2011 at 00:29 | Permalink

    I really don't think "build on the successful experience" of the Latin American commission is "basically the same organization". I really, also, think your intro would need to acknowledge the two successive commissions in order to accurately reflect what happened. Calling Paradigm GCPD is just wrong, don't you think? I think their site is fine. Sorry.

    • Red
      Posted 05/12/2011 at 15:55 | Permalink

      Hi Swliv,

      Thanks for your reply and accurate constructive criticism! Having checked the GCDP website again, I can see where our mistake arose- on the front page, the text is an extract from the longer text at the bottom of the page The Commission (under the list of Commissioners). In the long text it’s clear that the two Commissions are separate, however on the front page it is possible to make the interpretation that they are basically the same, which is what we did.

      I have now edited the intro as you suggested, and I hope it’s clear that the two reports and Commissions are related but not the same; if you have further feedback it’s more than welcome as we aim to maintain a high level of quality information :) .

      Thanks again for your comments and help,

      best wishes,


  4. Criminal Justice Degree Jobs
    Posted 10/01/2014 at 14:02 | Permalink

    Yes I totally agree that the work of organisations such as the Global Commission on Drug Policy is especially important. With out the work of these organizations there will be no peace & order.

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