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Latin American nations push UN to drop zero tolerance on drugs

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For advocates of new drug policies, the past three years have been momentous, but nothing until now, says Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, the director of the global drug policy program at the Open Society Foundations in New York, has had “force of action.”

“There is no more powerful body in terms of laying out a global drug policy regime than the UN,” Ms. Malinowska-Sempruch says. “Any discussion on a regional level or national level is important but does not have implications for the globe. This is actually global.”

Triggering a response

The mandate given to the OAS to study best practices, a review due out in a year, is considered a significant step forward, but the UN joint declaration goes further in that it actually triggers a process that requires a response from the UN and is a global call to action, say experts.

“The OAS action is purely advisory,” says Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and consultant to the OAS review process.

On the other hand, the joint statement issued to the UN, which followed speeches advocating new strategies by the three heads of states of Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico at the UN’s General Assembly last week, formally requests that a process take place.

“Anyone can make a speech,” says John Walsh, drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), “but it’s another thing to formally push for and request this process.”

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