The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy issued a report that marks a turning point in drug policy in the hemisphere. Following a year’s work, the report concludes that the “war on drugs” is a failed war and recommends a “paradigm shift” centered on public health, reducing consumption and focusing resources on organized crime.
The report was drawn up by a prestigious 17-member commission, chaired by former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of
It’s well worth it to read the full statement of the commission, "Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift." Here’s a brief run-down.
The report begins with a flat-out denouncement of the war on drugs emphasis on criminal enforcement measures.
“Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the expected results. We are farther than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs.”
At the teleconference held on Feb. 11, members of the commission criticized the "prohibitionist policies" of the past and urged formation of a Latin American policy based on harm reduction focus and collaboration with the
The section on the expensive, bloody and largely ineffective U.S.-sponsored drug wars in the
Although it stops short of mentioning the Merida Initiative and Plan
Referring to another aspect of the drug wars that has sparked controversy in
"It is important to speak not only of alternative cultivation but to envision a wide range of options, including the social development of alternative forms of work, democratic education and the search for solutions in a participatory context. Such initiatives must also take into account the legal uses of plants, such as the coca leaf, in countries with a long-standing tradition of ancestral use previous to the phenomenon of their exploitation as an input for drug production. Accordingly measures must be taken to strictly adjust production to this kind of ancestral use."
The mere recognition of the legitimacy of ancestral use is a step forward. This time, the implicit reference is to the Bolivian government where President Evo Morales’ “Coca sí, Cocaina no” policies collided with US DEA politicized eradication efforts, to the point where the DEA was barred from operating in the country. Here too the report opens up long-overdue debate on policies whose collateral damage to society and the environment cannot be justified by their poor results.
The goal of the commission report is to build a united Latin American platform on drug policy. When asked if they thought they could accomplish that by the time the
But it also targets its message to the
"[The U.S.] policy of massive incarceration of drug users, questionable both in terms of respect for human rights and its efficiency, is hardly applicable to Latin America, given the penal system’s overpopulation and material conditions. This repressive policy also facilitates consumer extortion and police corruption. The
The Commission’s message coming at this time reflects the hope that the Obama administration will have a more open attitude toward re-evaluating the failed policies.
That hope is not unfounded. The Obama administration had a few false starts on the issue, reflecting more the built-in inertia of
Those fears have been somewhat allayed over the past two days. On the international front, Obama broke publicly from the “zero-tolerance” line of the Bush administration and announced support for needle exchange, although she still called “harm reduction” an “ambiguous term”.
At home, Obama received criticism for the contradiction between campaign promises and a reality that looked a lot like no change regarding federal government repression of medical marijuana. White House spokesperson Nick Shapiro stated that the medical marijuana raids would not continue:
“The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind."