(Image source: CNN)

BY ZACH TOOMBS

 

Leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia are facing political division over how to deal with one of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest problems — illegal drug trade and use.

Although many South and Central American nations are looking for a new approach, President Barack Obama is not keen on shifting policy. CNN reports.

OBAMA: “These cartels and traffickers pose an extraordinary threat to our Central American neighbors.”

REPORTER: “And some of those neighbors who think the war on drugs is failing are suggesting decriminalization as a possible solution.”

 

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who sat down with Mr. Obama for a public discussion Saturday, is among the South American leaders pushing for various ideas to ease drug laws across the Americas. The New York Times writes:

 

“Mr. Santos … said the leaders should stop stalling in re-examining the region’s approach to the war on drugs, which he dated more than four decades back ... ‘Despite all of the efforts, the immense efforts, the huge costs, we have to recognize that the illicit drug business is prospering,’ [said Santos] ...”

 

Santos has proposed a plan for all 33 nations at the summit to regulate marijuana and cocaine similar to the way alcohol and tobacco are regulated in the United States. These drugs would become decriminalized and kept under the watch of a government agency. But Canada’s CBC says its own President Stephen Harper, along with Mr. Obama, will likely throw a wrench in that plan.

 

“Only Harper and President Barack Obama are saying ‘no way’ to that.”

OBAMA: “Personally, and my administration’s position, is that legalization is not the answer.”

 

Proponents of drug legalization point to Portugal as a model of success in decriminalization. In 2004, the European nation stopped putting drug users and traders in prison and instead focused resources on drug addiction therapy. In 2009, TIME Magazine wrote:

 

“... in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled … Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive.”

 

But, in The Washington Post, conservative columnist George Will writes legalization of cocaine is unlikely — and legalization of marijuana would do little to hurt drug traffickers or help the consumers.

 

“Marijuana probably provides less than 25 percent of the cartels’ revenue. Legalizing it would take perhaps $10 billion from some bad and violent people, but the cartels would still make much more money from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines than they would lose from marijuana legalization.”

 

So, why the refusal from the U.S. on legalization? A writer for the political opinion forum PolicyMic, says Obama faces little pressure at home to take action on drug policy.

 

“… Obama has very little incentive anyway to implement reform. With … his Republican opponents either ignoring the issue or advocating even more draconian drug war measures, there is little political will to urge change in a policy that does so much harm but which too few Americans understand."

Obama: Legalizing Drugs 'Not the Answer'

by Zach Toombs
0
Transcript
Apr 16, 2012

Obama: Legalizing Drugs 'Not the Answer'

(Image source: CNN)

BY ZACH TOOMBS

 

Leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia are facing political division over how to deal with one of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest problems — illegal drug trade and use.

Although many South and Central American nations are looking for a new approach, President Barack Obama is not keen on shifting policy. CNN reports.

OBAMA: “These cartels and traffickers pose an extraordinary threat to our Central American neighbors.”

REPORTER: “And some of those neighbors who think the war on drugs is failing are suggesting decriminalization as a possible solution.”

 

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who sat down with Mr. Obama for a public discussion Saturday, is among the South American leaders pushing for various ideas to ease drug laws across the Americas. The New York Times writes:

 

“Mr. Santos … said the leaders should stop stalling in re-examining the region’s approach to the war on drugs, which he dated more than four decades back ... ‘Despite all of the efforts, the immense efforts, the huge costs, we have to recognize that the illicit drug business is prospering,’ [said Santos] ...”

 

Santos has proposed a plan for all 33 nations at the summit to regulate marijuana and cocaine similar to the way alcohol and tobacco are regulated in the United States. These drugs would become decriminalized and kept under the watch of a government agency. But Canada’s CBC says its own President Stephen Harper, along with Mr. Obama, will likely throw a wrench in that plan.

 

“Only Harper and President Barack Obama are saying ‘no way’ to that.”

OBAMA: “Personally, and my administration’s position, is that legalization is not the answer.”

 

Proponents of drug legalization point to Portugal as a model of success in decriminalization. In 2004, the European nation stopped putting drug users and traders in prison and instead focused resources on drug addiction therapy. In 2009, TIME Magazine wrote:

 

“... in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled … Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive.”

 

But, in The Washington Post, conservative columnist George Will writes legalization of cocaine is unlikely — and legalization of marijuana would do little to hurt drug traffickers or help the consumers.

 

“Marijuana probably provides less than 25 percent of the cartels’ revenue. Legalizing it would take perhaps $10 billion from some bad and violent people, but the cartels would still make much more money from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines than they would lose from marijuana legalization.”

 

So, why the refusal from the U.S. on legalization? A writer for the political opinion forum PolicyMic, says Obama faces little pressure at home to take action on drug policy.

 

“… Obama has very little incentive anyway to implement reform. With … his Republican opponents either ignoring the issue or advocating even more draconian drug war measures, there is little political will to urge change in a policy that does so much harm but which too few Americans understand."

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