November 25th, 2014
06:33 PM ET

Zedillo: Why the war on drugs is failing

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Ernesto Zedillo, an economist who served as president of Mexico and is now the director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, and Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, about the war on drugs.

So explain, Ernesto, why you think the drug war has failed.

Zedillo: Well, by any objective indicator – let's look at what has happened with consumption, let's see what has happened with production of drugs, let's see how many people that are in jail. I mean, when these wars started in the U.S., you had 300,000 people in U.S. jails. Now you have 2.3 million people. And a lot of those people are in jail because of minor offenses, drug-related minor offenses.

But if you see south of the border, what we'll have to talk about thousands of people who have died in my country, you will have to speak about all these resources that flow north to south, and not only serve to buy weapons and to kill people in Mexico, but believe me, drug policies in your country, in Europe, in Latin America – everywhere – are making our job so much harder and so much more painful.

Watch the video for the full discussion.

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Topics: Drugs

soundoff (399 Responses)
  1. George patton

    Before these mindless Tea Partiers take over, I just want to say that except for marihuana for medicinal purposes, drugs should never become legal.

    November 25, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Reply
    • George patton


      November 25, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Reply
  2. It's just an opinion

    When make rules against something create a market for it. The "black" market, another racial reference, is alive and well. If only the greater point could be known. Money drives the world. In the "legal" world we see legal fraud almost sink a country and a free world yet little is done. We see an illegal trade used as a very well organized method to broadly promote a progressive growth in law enforcement under the guise of a "drug war" when the real meanings lie hidden.

    November 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      Is that so? LOL

      November 25, 2014 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  3. Ferhat Balkan

    The war on drugs has been a complete and utter failure. I believe in a system of rehabilitation, not incarceration. Criminalizing minor offenses such as drug use or possession is part of the reason why our jails are overcrowded (the other being the "quota" system of privatizing jails). IMHO marijuana use is no different than alcohol use in many respects. Alcohol use is actually more hazardous to your health than marijuana. Anyways, I agree with Mr. Ernesto Zedillo.

    November 25, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  4. chri§§y

    Agree @ Ferhat! And i would much rather encounter a user of marijuana on the highway than a drunk driver! They drive too slow but otherwise are tolerable.

    November 25, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  5. Josh's Old Timey Mosh Pit

    The war on drugs has been failing because the war has been waged on the least deadly drugs; street drugs. Perception drugs kill well over 10 times as many as street drugs do.
    Come on down to Josh's Old Timely Mosh Pit and bash gays for free every Thursday night. 🙂

    November 25, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Reply
    • George patton


      November 25, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Reply
  6. Blue Saffron☼

    Wrong on all counts. Marijuana is much more dangerous than alcohol as it disrupts the electromagnetic circuitry of the brain much more than alcohol leading to crimes. The argument that marijuana should remain banned results in a black market. The supply and demand equation when not in equilibrium (demand > supply) exacerbates the phenomenon.

    I don't have the right answer but suffice to say we must emphasize the prevention aspect of this problem and double up the efforts to provide adequate mental health treatment both outpatient and inpatient across the board.

    November 25, 2014 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  7. American Medical Association

    Come on! We labeled overeating as a "disease". The least you could do in return is tip your pharmacist.

    November 25, 2014 at 7:48 pm | Reply
  8. Blue Saffron☼

    What is much more devastating than street drugs is the abuse of prescription drugs. Doctors give the scripts away like candies and the pills hit the schools and Main Street like M&M's. Check the logs of any major hospital emergency room in America and you will find the answer. America is in crisis. The war must be fought at source (prevention) and treatment ( mental health) while controlling demand (substance abuse). I call this the trinity.

    November 25, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Reply
    • Blue Saffron

      I feel that the war on drugs is a lost cause. It's like stopping all car accidents in the entire world.
      Legalized all drugs and sell them only on odd numbered days. This will greatly reduce drug abuse.
      No big deal. I s nort on weekends. What's the big freaking deal?

      November 25, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  9. 9 yr old

    Americans spend more on mind altering drugs than is spent on national defense.
    @BS. MJ is a mood altering drug THC. All natural. Rx pharmacy drugs are petrochemicals. .

    November 25, 2014 at 8:00 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      You know better than that, 9 yr old. Nobody spends as much as we do on national "defense" and that's the blasphemous truth!!!

      November 25, 2014 at 8:39 pm | Reply
      • George patton

        Sorry folks,I didn't post that mindless Tea Party statement.
        This clown is only trying to discredit me.
        This joker has got to go. It's as simple as that!

        November 25, 2014 at 8:44 pm |
  10. Satan

    But, yeah. If I wanted to mislead everyone, I would use pharmacies more than street drug dealers to deal my dope. Of course Satan wants you medicated. Get a clue.

    November 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Reply
  11. Americans R 4%

    Americans only count for 4% of world population. Sit down and Stfu you small minority.

    November 25, 2014 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  12. George patton

    Lol. Sure

    November 25, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  13. Blue Saffron☼

    For Mexico to blame America et al is like Al Capone blaming prohibition. No can do.

    November 25, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Reply
  14. George patton

    True Blue. Thank u

    November 25, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Reply
  15. Joseph McCarthy

    You know what gets my goat George, is you have the Mexican government blaming Americans for buying their drugs, yet they want their illegals sending money back home to help their economy.
    So hypocritical!

    November 25, 2014 at 8:39 pm | Reply
  16. banasy@

    Good post Joseph,thank you.

    November 25, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Except banasy, I never posted the above. That's my imposter.

      November 25, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Reply
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Fake Joseph McCarthy @ 8:44

        November 25, 2014 at 8:55 pm |
      • banasy©

        Except, Joseph, that is mine that you replied to.

        November 25, 2014 at 8:55 pm |
  17. chri§§y

    Agree with @ George pattons 8:39 post!

    November 25, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Me too chrissy, me too! He's being trolled just like the rest of us here.

      November 25, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  18. Joseph McCarthy

    How great it would be to be able to once more have an intelligent discussion on this website. These mindless fools won't allow it, sadly enough. Look at all their senseless comments here. It just goes on and on and on.................

    November 25, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Reply
  19. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I must agree with Joseph. I will add though that the Mexican needs to clean up their act:
    1. Actual prison time for criminals
    2. Stricter court system
    3. Less corruption
    4. A more serious approach to the drug war
    5. Dismantling of all drug gangs
    6. Better tasting tacos and easier loser senioritas.

    November 25, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Reply
  20. Lupita

    Oh senior Joey. (Giggle giggle giggle)

    November 25, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Just ignore the above, Lupita. I didn't post it.

      November 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  21. Blue Saffron☼

    The focus should first and foremost be on mental health treatment. That is lacking in America. Usage of any type of drug inevitably leads to mental issues.

    Also do NOT forget Dopamine! We had that discussion a few years ago.

    November 25, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Reply
    • Blue Saffron☼

      Weeks ago. Pardone

      November 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Back in 1990, the governor of Michigan ordered the closing of all mental hospitals in that state, including the one at Ypsilanti. No wonder we have such a drug problem in this country!

      November 25, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Reply
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Back in 1990 I was committed to a state mental ward but my meds have kept me ok.

        November 25, 2014 at 9:16 pm |
      • George patton

        That started back in the early 1980's under President Reagan since that was the politically "correct" thing to do. The then Michigan governor, like Reagan simply didn't care about the people or the consequences of his actions!!!

        November 25, 2014 at 9:17 pm |
  22. Blue Saffron☼

    The comments on this forum are indicative of the effect of cheap drugs on monkeys. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

    November 25, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  23. Blue Saffron

    UPS is at my door. My mail order bride is here.
    Buh bye

    November 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Reply
  24. Joseph McCarthy

    @Blue Saffron. Why you dirty old man.

    November 25, 2014 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  25. chri§§y

    So @ Blue wish to ban turkey? Dopamine is in turkey lol thats gonna be a hard sell this close to Thanksgiving ya know.

    November 25, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      In your opinion chrissy, do you think Ronald Reagan was a good president? I definitely do not!!!

      November 25, 2014 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  26. chri§§y

    @ Joey in black, it was Pres Reagan in 1980 that discontinued the Mental Health Systems Act that caused the closing of mental health facilities. Many states tried to keep them open without the Federal funding that was previously used to do so! Mich could no longer provide the funding from the state budget in 1990 thats why the governor ordered them closed and most states had already done so years before! And Ypsilanti was the WORST one in the state and shouldve closed a very long time before that!!

    November 25, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  27. chri§§y

    He wasnt the worst POTUS @ George patton...but no i cant say i think of him as great either. Not only because of his mental health policy but his trickle down economics idea wasnt very good either!

    November 25, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  28. Blue Saffron☼

    I am a free market person. I stress mental health treatment. Not holding pens but 5 star residential places. As regards downers, doctors need to control scripts and refills whereas patients the pilferage.

    November 25, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  29. Ann-Marie Williams

    Hi Why are you sending me info that has passed? I already watched zedillo on GPS . This is terrible... Ann-Marie

    November 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm | Reply
  30. Blue Saffron☼

    I tend to think that street drug phenomenon is akin to usury laws. If you control it then black market or shylocks emerge. Again supply – demand phenom. If you don't control it then it gets out of control. So some upper limit control maybe prudent.

    November 25, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Reply
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