Our neighbor to the South is one step closer to making marijuana legal after a recent court ruling!
The New York Times reports:
The Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing marijuana on Wednesday, delivering a pointed challenge to the nation’s strict substance abuse laws and adding its weight to the growing debate in Latin America over the costs and consequences of the war against drugs.
The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the ruling does not strike down current drug laws, it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them, proponents of legalization say.
The decision reflects a changing dynamic in Mexico, where for decades the American-backed war on drugs has produced much upheaval but few lasting victories. Today, the flow of drugs to the United States continues, along with the political corruption it fuels in Mexico. The country, dispirited by the ceaseless fight with traffickers, remains engulfed in violence.
The marijuana case has ignited a debate about the effectiveness of imprisoning drug users, in a country with some of the most conservative drug laws in Latin America. But across the region, a growing number of voices are questioning Washington’s strategy in the drug war. With little to show for tough-on-crime policies, the balance appears to be slowly shifting toward other approaches.
The Uruguayan House of Representatives voted yesterday to approve a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana for adults. The measure will now move to the Senate where, if it passes as expected, will make Uruguay the first country in the world to create a fully legal and regulated marijuana market.
All 50 members of the ruling Broad Front coalition approved the measure yesterday after more than 13 hours of passionate debate. Lawmakers in the Senate have stated that they have achieved a comfortable majority in favor of the bill.
“Uruguay appears poised, in the weeks ahead, to become the first nation in modern times to create a legal, regulated framework for marijuana,” said John Walsh, a drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America. “In doing so, Uruguay will be bravely taking a leading role in establishing and testing a compelling alternative to the prohibitionist paradigm.”
Legalizing marijuana has been a popular anti-drug trafficking strategy for some of Uruguay’s most prominent political figures. President José Mújica has been a staunch, long-time advocate for replacing marijuana prohibition with taxation and regulation.
If the bill passes, Uruguayans over the age of 18 would be allowed to buy a limited amount of marijuana per month from state-sanctioned distributors.
Predictably, the International Narcotics Control Board, which oversees United Nations drug policy, is not amused.
Our vice president has a long and storied history of eyebrow-raising and indecipherable comments – “Bidenisms” as they’re known – and he had another doozy to offer yesterday. Speaking to a group of Latin American leaders, who have grown increasingly emboldened in their calls for legalization of marijuana and other drugs due to the deaths of tens of thousands of their citizens at the hands of powerful, murderous drug cartels, Biden offered this: "It warrants a discussion. It's totally legitimate for this to be raised. It's worth discussing … but there is no possibility that the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization."
Huh? Why bother having the discussion if you’re only going to listen to your half of it? That’s like a judge presiding over a criminal trial even though he’s already sentenced the defendant. Call off your research and pack up your “totally legitimate” policy arguments, this administration won’t be listening to any of it. For an administration that claims it wants to put science before ideology and politics when it comes to drug policy, this seems to indicate there is “no possibility” there will be a change in policy no matter how much scientific research is done. At least legalization is in his vocabulary, I suppose.
Of course, what’s important here is that, whether the administration is listening or not, this conversation is happening. More and more people, including influential heads of state, are joining our side and calling for the end of marijuana prohibition. Voters in Colorado and Washington state will have a chance to join them this November, and if the polls are right, the administration will hear them loud and clear.
Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international organization consisting of high level current and former heads of state and policy experts, released a report suggesting world governments give up the war on drugs and consider more rational harm-reduction policies, including removing all criminal penalties for the possession and use of marijuana. The Commission, which included former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, among many others, urged leaders to consider alternatives to incarceration for drug use to shift their focus toward treatment of drug abusers, rather than punishment and interdiction for recreational users.
"These prominent world leaders recognize an undeniable reality. The use of marijuana, which is objectively less harmful than alcohol, is widespread and will never be eliminated,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “They acknowledge that there are only two choices moving forward. We can maintain marijuana's status as a wholly illegal substance and steer billions of dollars toward drug cartels and other criminal actors. Or, we can encourage nations to make the adult use of marijuana legal and have it sold in regulated stores by legitimate, taxpaying business people. At long last, we have world leaders embracing the more rational choice and advocating for legal, regulated markets for marijuana. We praise these world leaders for their willingness to advocate for this sensible approach to marijuana policy."
This study comes as Portugal enjoys the tenth year of its experiment with decriminalizing all drugs. Since making the bold policy move in 2001, Portugal has seen crime, use rates, addiction rates, overdose deaths, and blood-borne disease all decrease significantly. The study released last week suggests that a similar model could be adopted successfully elsewhere. It also stresses the damage that prohibition policies do to society, including massive government expenditure, enrichment of criminal organizations, and interference with treatment and prevention of diseases like HIV/AIDS.
Today, reports issued by several Senate subcommittees stated that America's massive spending to fight the drug war in Latin America has not stopped narcotics from entering the U.S., nor has it affected use rates.
So what exactly is the justification for this continued insanity?
UPDATE: The Marijuana Policy Project's Robert Capecchi talks about the Global Commision on Drug Policy report on FOX9 in the Twin Cities.
This weekend, Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, joined a growing number of Latin American leaders, academics, and artists in calling for an end to failed prohibition policies:
“[Legalization] is the only solution," said the author. "Drug trafficking can not be defeated by military means.”
It seems strange that such well-respected members of Latin American society are more and more willing to come out in favor of reform, while here in the States, most public officials will not come within a mile of advocating sensible policies. The research supporting these changes is available, and new studies suggesting the same are coming out all the time.
Could it be that this is because our policies cause much more bloodshed abroad than at home, despite America being the largest marijuana market on Earth?