George Soros, one of the richest men in the world, has urged Western governments to end the current model for the decades-long “war on drugs,” echoing recent statements made by the Guatemalan president.
“I have a strong conviction that the current approach is doing more harm than good, and it has endangered more political stability in a lot of countries. That we need to change,” Soros said at the World Economic Forum, reported the BBC.
Soros, who made his billions through investing, cited “austerity” as a reason to end the current model in stopping the narcotics trading, arguing that it is expensive to keep people locked up in prison on drug offenses.
“What got me involved is that the war on drugs was doing more damage than the drugs themselves,” he said.
Over the past 40 years, the United States has pursued a “war on drugs” approach to stop the flow of narcotics in the country. However, the illicit industry has been growing over the years and is worth an estimated $365 billion, forcing some to believe that the United States’ approach has not been effective.
“The problem,” said Soros, “is that some of the people, or governors, or politicians, who favor reducing incarceration are not willing to spend money on alternative treatments. And that is an issue over which advocates have different visions, but I think the cost of alternatives is significantly lower than the cost of incarceration.”
Giving an example, he said, “So for instance in California, the state spends more money on the prison system than it spends on the education system.”
A recent poll taken by the Huffington Post and YouGov found that only one in five Americans thinks the war on drugs has been worth the cost. Around 53 percent think it was not worth it, and another 28 percent are not sure.
Speaking alongside Soros, President Molina, who took office in 2011, said that 4 in 10 homicides in Guatemala were related to the drug trade—particularly in connection with the cocaine trade.
“Prohibition, this war on drugs, has seen cartels grow and the results are not what we looked for,” Molina said, reported The Guardian. “There is a new trend towards drugs now—not war, but a new perspective and a different way of dealing with the problem.”
But Soros acknowledged that he did not know the answer to the problem, saying that it should be determined through trial and error.
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