Ending the War on Drugs

Back in April, the Summit of the Americas was held in Cartagena, Colombia. President Obama attended the conference, which received quite a lot of news coverage. Unfortunately, the story that dominated the news in the US was that Secret Service agents were caught hiring prostitutes.

A much bigger story was that, for the first time, some Central and South American governments called for an end to the American-led “War on Drugs”. The presidents of Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia vigorously argued that the “War on Drugs” has failed and that a different approach is needed.

Writing in The New York Review of Books, Alma Guillermoprieto describes a discussion at the conference “that for the first time in forty years challenged the United States’ dominance on drug issues (and) focused urgently instead on the ways that the financial health, political stability, and national security of virtually every country in the Americas has been undermined by the drug trade”.

The president of Costa Rica made these remarks:

“For Costa Rica, the road — our road, at least — is not the war on drugs, because we have no army and we are not willing to be hooked onto that convoy of destruction, of militarism, of exorbitant expenditure, that distracts states from their efforts toward social investment….Costa Rica has already made progress in decriminalizing drug consumption, (because) we believe it’s a question of public health, and not of criminal law”.

It might take decades to change our government’s policy, but it seems more likely every year that the use of drugs like marijuana and heroin will eventually be decriminalized, regulated and taxed. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it isn’t working for these drugs either.

“Drugs: The Rebellion in Cartagena” is a long article in The New York Review of Bookshttp://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/07/drugs-rebellion-cartagena/

A much shorter article about the conference appeared in The Guardian:      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/18/cartagena-war-on-drugs

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