World leaders call for responsible legal regulation of drugs

Today, the Global Commission on Drug Policy will release Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work, a new, groundbreaking report that calls for the legal regulation of drugs. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders ever to call for such far-reaching reform.

The Commission's first report (PDF), released in 2011, focused mainly on the disastrous costs of the war on drugs, but this latest report goes further, outlining a range of options for how, in practice, drug markets can be legally regulated, and setting out the rationale for ending prohibition. 

"Ultimately, the global drug control regime must be reformed to permit legal regulation ... let's allow and encourage countries to carefully test models of responsible legal regulation as a means to undermine the power of organized crime, which thrives on illicit drug trafficking."

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and former president of Brazil

Below are the report's seven key recommendations:

  • Put health and community safety first through a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions.
  • Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain.
  • Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession – and stop imposing “compulsory treatment” on people whose only offense is drug use or possession.
  • Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs.
  • Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state.
  • Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity presented by the upcoming UNGASS in 2016 to reform the global drug policy regime.
"We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment."

Kofi Annan, Commission member and former UN Secretary-General

Taking Control will be launched at a press conference in New York City, which will be attended by members of the Commission including the former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Colombia César Gaviria, former president of Switzerland Ruth Dreifuss and Richard Branson. The event will be live-streamed at 13:45 GMT / 09:45 EDT. The Commissioners will then meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson to discuss the report.

Coming from such a distinguished group of public figures, the report should help to inform the upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 2016, at which the international community will have the opportunity to take the first steps towards reshaping global drug policy in line with the principles of science, human rights and public health.


"Regulating the whole chain, from the production to the retail of drugs, will enable us to rollback criminal organizations, secure quality standards and protect people’s life, health and safety."

Ruth Dreifuss, Commission member and former president of Switzerland


Members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Below is a full list of the Global Commission's members:

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, Ghana

Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Canada

Pavel Bém, former Mayor of Prague, Czech Republic

Richard Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair)

Maria Cattaui, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland

Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs

César Gaviria, former President of Colombia

Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan

Michel Kazatchkine, UN Secretary General Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, France

Aleksander Kwasniewski, former President of Poland

Richard Lagos, former President of Chile

George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece

Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal

George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)

Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy , Spain

Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru

Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board

John Whitehead, former Deputy Secretary of State, former Co-Chairman Goldman Sachs & Co. and founding Chairman, 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico

Notes for media