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No more drug war in Latin America? Report explores new ways to fight drugs

A new OAS report looks at alternatives to prohibiting the drug trade, including legal market regulation, reform of the UN drug convention, and smarter policing.

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Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (l.) and OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza, shake hands at a joint press conference about a regional study on the illicit drug trade, at the Presidential Palace in Bogota, Colombia, Friday. A new report by the Organization of American States on the region's drug problem explores a range of potential pathways for dealing with the illicit drug trade.

Fernando Vergara/AP

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In the global fight against drug trafficking, it’s high time countries experiment with “nontraditional” approaches.

That’s the advice given to the United States and Latin America in a sweeping new report by the Organization of American States on the region's drug problem. The 190-page document explores a range of potential pathways for dealing with the illicit drug trade, including legal market regulation, reform of the United Nations drug convention, and smarter policing.

“It clearly acknowledges that the current state of affairs is not acceptable and there is really a need to look forward,” says Kasia Malinowska, director of the Open Society Foundations’ Global Drug Policy Program. “Countries have to decide what level of experimentation is right for them. This is clearly a door opener.”

The report is the fruit of a proposal made last year by leaders of OAS member countries who, frustrated with prohibitionist policies, requested greater analysis of the problem and possible solutions.

It’s also the latest sign that the tide may be slowly turning against the US-led war on drugs.

Two years ago, the Global Commission on Drug Policy – whose members include former presidents of Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia, and a former US secretary of State – challenged the status quo of 40 years of “drug war” by recommending the decriminalization of users and experimenting with legal regulation.

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