Latin America is trembling. The recent set of discussions and proposals about alternatives to drug users´ penalization just went one step further with the ruling of the Supreme Court of Argentina. The Court acquitted a “mule” who was sentenced after he was denounced while seeking medical attention. The new strategy adopted at the 47th session of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) was the second positive sign in this area, as the OAS explicitly pronounced in favour of respecting human rights in the policies of the region.
President Obama signed legislation on Tuesday reducing sentencing disparities between those caught with crack and those arrested with powder cocaine. The legislation was a compromise reached by Democrats and Republicans who agreed that the old law imposed unduly harsh sentences for crack violations, which especially affected minorities, compared with powder cocaine violations. Under the old law, a person caught with five grams of crack received a mandatory five years in prison, while a person caught with powder cocaine had to have 500 grams to merit the same term. The new law reduces the 100-to-1 disparity to 18-to-1.
Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, has joined calls for a debate on the legalisation of drugs as new figures show thousands of Mexicans every year being slaughtered in cartel wars. "It is a fundamental debate," the president said, belying his traditional reluctance to accept any questioning of the military-focused offensive against the country's drug cartels. "You have to analyse carefully the pros and cons and key arguments on both sides." The president said he personally opposes the idea of legalisation.
The mephedrone scare started at the end of 2009 when newspapers and the BBC reported that Gabrielle Price, a 14-year-old girl from Brighton, had died after taking the drug. The story was based on rumour and police statements. The hysteria over mephedrone is a classic example of indulgent moral outrage at the expense of a common-sense harm reduction strategy.
Mexico's president Felipe Caldéron is the latest Latin leader to call for a debate on drugs legalisation. And in the US, liberals and right-wing libertarians are pressing for an end to prohibition. Forty years after President Nixon launched the 'war on drugs' there is a growing momentum to abandon the fight.
Maria Lucia Karam, a retired Brazilian judge, argues that drugs should be legalised - but regulated. Every country that has provided a glimpse of what a regulated future might look like has experienced lowered rates of death, disease, crime and addiction.
La legalización del consumo y venta de drogas “blandas” (mariguana y hachís) en Holanda resultó un éxito para el sistema de salud de ese país, al disminuir el nivel de adicción a estas sustancias entre su población.
Former President Vicente Fox is joining with those urging his successor to legalize drugs in Mexico, saying that could break the economic power of the country's brutal drug cartels. Fox's comments, posted Sunday on his blog, came less than a week after President Felipe Calderon agreed to open the door to discussions about the legalization of drugs, even though he stressed that he remained opposed to the idea.
Since marijuana provides the Mexican gangs with up to half their income, taking that business out of their hands would change the balance of power in the drug war. Californians will vote in November on whether to legalise and tax the sale of marijuana to adults. Were the proposal to pass it would render Mexico’s assault on drug traffickers untenable, reckons Jorge Castañeda, a former foreign minister. “How would you continue with a war on drugs in Tijuana, when across the border grocery stores were selling marijuana?” he asks.
Legalization of drugs -- long an issue championed mainly by fringe groups -- is rapidly moving to the mainstream in Latin America. Last week's surprise statement by former Mexican President Vicente Fox in support of "legalizing production, sales and distribution" of drugs made big headlines around the world.
"I don't think that marijuana legalization will be a panacea on drug violence in Mexico," said David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. "But legalization could change the nature of the fight. Drugs are so much more profitable than any other form of illicit activity. You take away that profitability, and you cripple the organizations' ability to corrupt the state."
Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, launched his presidency three and a half years ago with an unprecedented military-led offensive against the country's drug cartels. Since then 28,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence that continues to escalate, with little sign that the power of the traffickers has been reduced.
Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, began his administration in 2000 with a popular festival. Felipe Calderón, who took over in 2006, began his with a show of military force. His affinity for uniforms, army brass bands and public events with the armed forces makes an overt connection between the military and the executive that was unusual in Mexican politics before his presidency.
One of the UK's leading doctors said today the government should consider decriminalising drugs because the blanket ban has failed to cut crime or improve health. "I'm not saying we should make heroin available to everyone, but we should be treating it as a health issue rather than criminalising people," said Sir Ian Gilmore, former president of the Royal College of Physicians.
Brazil will soon have a special police task force targeting crack-cocaine. Meanwhile, the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais proposes its own drug fighting alternatives to address crack on the domestic front. Crack is a risk factor in urban violence, contributing to homicides and robberies in Brazilian cities. However, it is not the chemistry involved in crack, but the crack market that is increasing the crime and violence. How can rising crack use effectively be addressed, other than through mere suppression?
On Nov. 2, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, deciding whether to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. If the initiative passes, it won't just be momentous for California; it may, at long last, offer Mexico the promise of an exit from our costly war on drugs. The costs of that war have long since reached intolerable levels: more than 28,000 of our fellow citizens dead since late 2006; expenditures well above $10 billion; terrible damage to Mexico's image abroad; human rights violations by government security forces; and ever more crime.
It is wrecking the government of Mexico. It is financing the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is throwing 11,000 Britons into jail. It is corrupting democracy throughout Latin America. It is devastating the ghettoes of America and propagating Aids in urban Europe. Its turnover is some £200bn a year, on which it pays not a penny of tax. Thousands round the world die of it and millions are impoverished. It is the biggest man-made blight on the face of the earth.
A debate about legalizing marijuana and possibly other drugs — once a taboo suggestion — is percolating in Mexico, a nation exhausted by runaway violence and a deadly drug war. The debate is only likely to grow more animated if Californians approve an initiative on Nov. 2 to legalize marijuana for recreational use in their state.
For those who have long argued that smoking marijuana should not be a crime, a potentially historic turning point is just weeks away. Voters in California will decide Nov. 2 whether to make their state the first to legalize the growing, selling and recreational use of marijuana. And polls here - the nation's most populous state - suggest that residents are about evenly split on the issue.