Global Commission on Drug Policy

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The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is a panel of 22 world leaders and intellectuals which issued an assessment in 2011 of the global War on Drugs, opening its report with "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world." The emphasis in drug policy on harsh law enforcement over four decades has not accomplished its goal of banishing drugs and has in fact spawned wide, dramatic eruptions of violence, the report continued. By way of alternative, the GCDP report "advocates decriminalizing drug use by those who do no harm to others."

The commission has been formed 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. [It built] on the successful experience of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy."

On September 9th, 2014 the Commission issued its new report Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work. "The report reflects the evolution in the thinking of the Commissioners, who reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches and now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes."


Membership of the GCDP Board is:

  • Aleksander Kwaśniewski (Poland), former President of Poland
  • Asma Jahangir (Pakistan), human rights activist, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions
  • Carlos Fuentes (Mexico), writer and public intellectual (died May 15, 2012)
  • César Gaviria (Colombia), former President of Colombia
  • Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico), former President of Mexico
  • Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), former President of Brazil (chair)
  • George Papandreou (Greece), former Prime Minister of Greece
  • George P. Shultz (United States), former Secretary of State (honorary chair)
  • Javier Solana (Spain), former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
  • John C. Whitehead (United States), banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial
  • Jorge Sampaio (Portugal), former President of Portugal
  • Kofi Annan (Ghana), former Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • Louise Arbour (Canada), former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, president of the International Crisis Group
  • Maria Cattaui (Switzerland), member of the Board, Petroplus Holdings; former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce
  • Marion Caspers-Merk (Germany), former State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Health (Germany)
  • Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), writer and public intellectual, Nobel Prize laureate
  • Michel Kazatchkine (France), UN Secretary-General's 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
  • Paul Volcker (United States), former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board
  • Pavel Bém (Czech Republic) former Mayor of Prague, member of the Parliament, Czech Republic
  • Ricardo Lagos (Chile) former President of Chile

Richard Branson (United Kingdom), entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, co-founder of The Elders

  • Ruth Dreifuss (Switzerland), former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs
  • Thorvald Stoltenberg (Norway), former Minister of Foreign Affairs and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Reactions to report


Gabor Maté, a Hungarian-Canadian physician who specializes in study and treatment of addiction, was interviewed on Democracy Now! about the report.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the commission, saying they were in line with the policies of his administration; and saying it was the policies of the succeeding Reagan administration which had moved U.S. policy so far toward punitive alternatives. Carter's piece elicited several published responses, including one from an analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy who drew attention to the current White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's immediate rejection of GCDP's recommendations and defense of the "balanced drug control efforts" of the U.S. federal government; and others which agreed and disagreed with Carter's views.

Brian Lehrer had Ethan Nadelmann, founder and director of the Drug Policy Alliance, on Lehrer's radio show to detail the GCDP report and how that might impact U.S. anti-drug policies.

Sir Ronald Sanders, a consultant and former Caribbean diplomat, wrote in favor of the recommendations and endorsement of President Carter's expressed views.


Peter Hakim prominently cited the GCDP report in an October, 2011, "rethinking [of] U.S. drug policy".

The Beckley Foundation's Global Initiative for Drug Policy Reform antedated the release of the GCDP report but integrated the GCPD into its November, 2011, British House of Lords meetings. Professor Robin Room (University of Melbourne) was preparing a "Rewriting the UN Drug Conventions Report" based on amendments to the UN drug control conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 for the Initiative; and Professor Stephen Pudney (Institute for Social and Economic Research) was preparing "the first-ever Cost-benefit Analysis of the control of cannabis through regulation and taxation in the UK" for it. Amanda Feilding of the Foundation and other peers led the effort and attracted some criticism for it.

Background papers

       as of 2011-11-25
  • "Demand reduction and harm reduction", by Dr Alex Wodak AM
  • "Drug policy, criminal justice and mass imprisonment", by Bryan Stevenson
  • "Assessing supply-side policy and practice: Eradication and alternative development, by David Mansfield
  • "The development of international drug control: Lessons learned and strategic challenges for the future" by Martin Jelsma
  • "Drug policy: Lessons learned and options for the future", by Mike Trace
  • "The drug trade: The politicization of criminals and the criminalization of politicians" by Moisés Naím

According to the blog Sensi Seeds, "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" legalization and decriminalization, including "Paper 4: Criminal justice challenges".


Three Canadian politicians in August 2013 admitted to having use marijuana in their lifetimes. Marijuana remains illegal, except for medicinal use, in Canada.