Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Fourth Anti-Drug Prohibition Conference

A sticker near the National University
declares 'Coca leaf is culture, Cocaine is business.'
The Fourth Latinamerican Conference on Drug Policy just ended in Bogotá. The conference, whose conclusions were never in doubt, seems more significant for the policy juncture in which it took place than for all the verbiage poured out there.

A visit to the conference's website and those of some of its sponsors, such as the International Drug Policy Consortium, shows that this is an organization which wants to see drugs decriminalized (a policy I agree with).

So, the participants must have felt hopeful about their cause, considering the growing number of ex-presidents (of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil) who have recently advocated drug legalization, and the several sitting presidents, including those of Guatemala, Mexico and even Colombia, who have urged reconsidering prohibitionism.

And, of course, marijuana depenalization is spreading across the Americas, from Canada to Uruguay.

In a cartoon in the El Espectador newspaper a guerrilla declares
'Legalizing means pacifying. That's bad for business.'
Colombia's guerrillas finance themselves primarily
thru the drug trade.
What's more, the conference, in which the Colombian government participated, was punctuated by what may have been Pres. Juan Manuel Santos' most critical comments so far, made at an event about corruption, about the War on Drugs.

"You go to Cauca Department and see a peasant cultivating marijuana and you tell him: 'You're committing a crime; You're committing and crime, have to erradicate or go to prison.' And over there in Colorado the gringos are smoking a joint tranquilly," Santos said.

"That's a real fundamental contradiction. ¿How will the world deal with this?"

Santos also added his signature to a letter calling the drug war a failure, altho he did not endorse legalization, either.

For his part, Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, who has promoted replacing punishment with treatment for drug users, inaugurated the conference with a withering speech blaming the drug war for bringing a scourge of violence onto Latin America.

"We will not escape from violence in Latin America unless we are capable of creating a new policy on drugs," Petro told the conference.

And General José Roberto León Riaño, director of Colombia's police, observed to El Tiempo that it makes no sense for Colombia to continue suffering deaths in the drug war while at least one drug is being legalized in the United States.

Supporters of drug prohibition have emphasized that over recent years cocaine consumption has dropped in the United States (while rising in Europe and other areas). However, over recent years tobacco consumption has decreased as well using education, without all of the damage, suffering and expense caused by prohibitionism.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Stuart Oswald said...

I can inform you that there has been no education (apart from the odd poster here and there) and the decrease in tobacco usage can be put down to the banning of it's use in public places along with other banning measures. Please don't mislead.