For related articles and more information, please visit OCA’s Politics and Democracy page, Health Issues page.

Tomorrow’s 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s declaration of the War on Drugs comes amid growing recognition that the policy, and all that it wrought, is a complete disaster.

Shifting priorities toward a more sensible approach that offers treatment rather than punishment for addicts may seem like a daunting task but public opinion is increasingly opposed to the war on drugs, and many states facing tight budgets are de-emphasizing expensive criminalization in favor of strategies that decrease the penal population.

As Sasha Abramsky explained in an extensively reported and still-timely 2009 piece, “out of economic necessity and because of shifting mores, the country will likely get more selective, and smarter, about how it uses incarceration and whom it targets for long spells behind bars.”

Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report declaring unreservedly: “The global war on drugs has failed.” This strong criticism of the status quo was endorsed by the three former Latin American presidents who organized the commission – Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico – along with 16 other prominent world leaders, including former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former head of NATO Javier Solana, Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.