Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Progress on drug reform in Latin America

The international rules on prohibition were laid down by the United Nations more than 50 years ago, making drug policy difficult for individual countries to reform. But diplomats and do-gooders are finding ever more chinks in prohibition’s legal armour. 
The latest attempt came on May 17th, when the Organisation of American States (OAS), a regional inter-governmental club, presented a report that pushed the limits of what can be said about drugs in polite diplomatic company. Drawn up with the input of academics, officials, policemen and others (including a journalist from The Economist), it envisioned a future in which by 2025 cannabis is legal in much of Europe and the Americas, a regional market for coca-leaf (cocaine’s raw ingredient) is in operation, and the UN’s anti-drug conventions are up for renegotiation. 
This was only one of four “scenarios”; the OAS took pains to make clear it was not advocating or even forecasting such changes. The approach was suggested by Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, where the same technique has been used to negotiate with rebels in past peace talks. Three other scenarios outlined in the report were worthy but tame. None contained new policy proposals. Nonetheless, it is the first time legalisation has been seriously explored by an inter-governmental organisation.
That's from the Economist.  The failure to shift the debate on drug reform has been one of the biggest disappointments from the Obama administration.  This is an issue that has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives and greatly improve the lives of many (who will otherwise end up in prison).  It's hard to feel optimistic about a shift in policy at this point.  If the Obama administration was going to transform its drug policy, it seems that it would have started before now.  

In the Obama administration's defense, there is an argument to be made that, by getting out ahead of public opinion, Democrats would only harm this debate in the long term.  

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