Drugs: The Debate Goes Mainstream

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What is the best way to deal with drugs? Criminalizing drug users or treating them as patients? Sticking to a strict prohibitionist stance or experimenting with alternative forms of regulation and prevention?

Latin America is talking about drugs like never before. The taboo that has long prevented open debate about drug policies has been broken -- thanks to a steadily deteriorating situation on the ground and the courageous stand taken by presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala and Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica.

The facts speak for themselves. The foundations of the U.S.-led war on drugs -- eradication of production, interdiction of traffic, and criminalization of consumption -- have not succeeded and never will. When there is established demand for a consumer product, there will be a supply. The only beneficiaries of prohibition are the drug cartels.

Forty years of strenuous efforts have failed to reduce the production and consumption of illicit drugs. Worse, in Mexico and Central America, prohibition-related violence and corruption have become a major threat to public safety and the stability of democratic institutions.

In light of the disastrous consequences of the war on drugs, we took the initiative four years ago to convene a Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy -- and, more recently, a Global Commission on Drug Policy. Our core message was clear: The war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies throughout the Americas.

Our commissions presented two key recommendations. The first was to end -- as soon as possible -- the criminalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. People struggling with drug abuse or addiction may indeed harm themselves and their families, but criminalization and social marginalization are not going to help them.

Complete article via World Post.

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