A group of Latin American leaders declared that votes by two U.S. states to legalize marijuana have important implications for efforts to quash drug smuggling, offering the first government reaction from a region increasingly frustrated with the U.S.-backed war on drugs. The declaration by the leaders of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica did not explicitly say they were considering weakening their governments' efforts against marijuana smuggling, but it strongly implied the votes last week in Colorado and Washington would make enforcement of marijuana bans more difficult.
Prison overcrowding is a widespread problem in Latin America, primarily because of harsh drug-sentencing laws and inadequate budgets, but Costa Rica may be setting a useful example for dealing with it. In most countries, guards control the perimeter, but groups of prisoners or criminal gangs organize and control life inside the prison compound. Rehabilitation and re-integration programs are limited.
Pien Metaal, who follows Latin American drug law reform ... told The Tico Times ... that legalizing medical marijuana in Costa Rica “would clearly send a message that can spark a debate in the region... Of course, the debate should not just be about medicinal use,” Metaal wrote, “since in fact recreational use is the largest actually existing phenomena, [for] which simple possession and use are being criminalized and prosecuted.”