Last week, the Mexican government signed into law, the decriminalisation of small amounts of drugs including heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamines, cannabis, LSD etc. The law slipped through quietly with virtually no media uproar or condemnation as the country remained focussed on the bigger drug war involving the cartels. Most surprising was the lack of response from the US government. In 2006, an almost identical bill passed by congress was not signed by the Mexican president, Vicente Fox at the last moment after pressure from the Bush administration. The US Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske remains unusually quiet compared to his hard core predecessors and when questioned, said he will, “wait and see”.
A few days later, Agentina’s supreme court ruled that penalising people for using cannabis when it didn’t effect anyone else, was unconstitutional. Is this the start of a new trend in South America that rejects the strict prohibitionist strategies of the last 40 years? Is South America leading a revolt against the US stranglehold on the UNODC and world drug policies? Has South America had enough of being a scapegoat for the US and their insatiable hunger for illicit drugs? But not all countries in South America are in a hurry to distance themselves from Washington. A few weeks ago, Colombia signed an agreement with the United States allowing them to use local military bases for continuing drug operations. Columbia already has a strained relationship with neighbouring countries over it’s US ties and a move to allow the DEA and the CIA to use their military bases has been deplored by most South American leaders. Venezuela and Ecuador currently do not have diplomatic relations with Columbia.
Argentina And Legalizing Pot
Argentina follows Mexico toward decriminalizing marijuana. What does this mean for the war on drugs?
The war on drugs is getting complicated, said Jacob Sullum in Reason. Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled that it’s unconstitutional to punish adults for private marijuana use, a big step toward decriminalizing the drug. The ruling is based on the “privacy clause” of Argentina’s constitution—private pot use doesn’t “offend public order or morality”—but it comes just days after Mexico eliminated criminal penalties for holding small amounts of drugs. And Brazil and Ecuador are close behind.
That’s not a coincidence, said Alexi Barrionuevo in The New York Times. From Mexico to Argentina there’s “an urgent desire to reject decades of American prescriptions for distinctly Latin American challenges,” including drugs. In February, ex-presidents of Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia called the U.S. “war on drugs” a “failure,” and urged Latin America to adopt the less-punitive “drug policies found in some European countries.”
The report from the three leaders may be a “big factor” in the Argentine ruling, said Joshua Keating in Foreign Policy, as well as the region’s “major rethink on drug policy.” But it “remains to be seen” if it will have any impact north of the border. U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske is taking a “wait-and-see attitude,” but President Obama has too much on his plate to “touch drug policy right now.”
Latin American leaders, especially in Mexico, wish he would, said Katie Hammel in Gadling. But while a drug policy that focuses “more on reducing harm to drug users and society” wouldn’t be a new approach to the war on drugs, I don’t see it happening “any time soon” in the U.S. Meanwhile, I’ll “stick to booze.”