Presidents rom across the region’s politicalspectrum are now supporting calls to moveaway rom prohibition and eradication policies,and move towards a public health approachwhile regulating illicit crops or legal uses.Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguayhave decriminalized possession o certain drugsor personal consumption; Uruguay is debatinga bill that would regulate the production anddistribution o marijuana; and two U.S. states,Colorado and Washington, voted in 2012 tolegalize and regulate marijuana.In the past year and a hal, thanks to LatinAmerican initiatives, drug policy has beenon the agenda at the United Nations,Summit o the Americas and Organizationo American States (OAS). In October 2012,three sitting presidents—Juan Manuel Santos(Colombia), Otto Pérez Molina (Guatemala),and Felipe Calderón (Mexico)—issued astatement to the United Nations calling ora meeting to debate global drug policy anddiscuss alternatives, saying an urgent reviewo the current approach was needed.
Thepresidents o Honduras, Costa Rica and Belizelater added their support. The UN GeneralAssembly voted in avor o the proposal inNovember and plans to hold the debate in2016. “Alternative Strategies or CombatingDrugs,” meanwhile, was the theme o the OASannual General Assembly meeting in Antigua,Guatemala in June 2013, where the Secretary-General presented a report, commissionedat the Summit o the Americas meeting inApril 2012, on the results o drug policiesin the Americas, and possible scenarios orreorm. This cautious but thoughtul reportound “it would be worthwhile to assessexisting signals and trends that lean towardthe decriminalization or legalization o theproduction, sale, and use o marijuana.”
For its part, the Obama Administration hasreiterated that it does not support legalizationand will continue to oppose marijuanainitiatives at the national level. In response tothe OAS report, a spokesman or the WhiteHouse’s drug czar said, “any suggestion thatnations legalize drugs like heroin, cocaine,marijuana, and methamphetamine runscounter to an evidenced-based, public healthapproach to drug policy and are not viablealternatives.”
The “Declaration o Antigua,” issued by theoreign ministers assembled at the June 2013OAS meeting, while alling ar short o anyclarion call or reorm, urged governments to“encourage broad and open debate on theworld drug problem so that all sectors o societyparticipate,” emphasized “that drug abuse isalso a public health problem and, thereore,it is necessary to strengthen public healthsystems, particularly in the areas o prevention,treatment, and rehabilitation,” and underscoredthat “drug policies must have a crosscuttinghuman rights perspective consistent with theobligations o parties under international law.”The declaration also singled out the impact orearms tracking, declaring that “to reducethe levels o violence associated with the worlddrug problem and related crimes it is essentialto implement and strengthen more-eectivemeasures to prevent the illicit manuacturingo and tracking in rearms, ammunition,explosives and related materials and their illicitdiversion to organized criminal groups.”
More vocal calls or drug policy reorm are alsocoming rom civil society. In summer 2012,110 victims o Mexico’s violence drove in a“Caravan or Peace with Justice and Dignity”rom Mexico through the United States, endingup in Washington, DC. They called or a newapproach to the tragic violence that has claimedover 60,000 lives in Mexico. They asked or theUnited States to take responsibility or stoppingthe fow o assault weapons that arm the cartels;to end a “militarized” approach to drug policy;to pass comprehensive immigration reorm;and to support policies that would protect theircommunities, not escalate the violence.
Over 100 victims o Mexico’s violence drove ina “Caravan or Peace with Justice and Dignity”rom Mexico throughout the United States,calling or a new approach to the violence thathas claimed over 60,000 lives in their country.