New Thinking Coming From Latin America
Across Latin America, leaders appalled by the spread of drug-related violence are mulling policies that would have once been inconceivable. Decriminalizing everything from heroin and cocaine to marijuana? The Brazilian and Argentine legislatures think that could be the best way to allow the police to focus on traffickers instead of addicts.
Legalizing and regulating not just drug use, but also drug transport — perhaps with large customs fees for bulk shipments? President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala, a no-nonsense former army general, has called for discussion of such an approach, even as leaders in Colombia, Mexico, Belize and other countries also demand a broader debate on relaxing punitive drug laws.
Uruguay has taken the experimentation to another level. United Nations officials say no other country has seriously considered creating a completely legal state-managed monopoly for marijuana or any other substance prohibited by the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Doing so would make Uruguay the world’s first marijuana republic — leapfrogging the Netherlands, which has officially ignored marijuana sales and use since 1976, and Portugal, which abolished all criminal penalties for drug use in 2001. Here, in contrast, a state-run industry would be born, created by government bureaucrats convinced that opposition to marijuana is simply outdated.
“In 1961, television was just black and white,” said Julio Calzada, secretary general of Uruguay’s National Committee on Drugs. “Now we have the Internet.”
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