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Beginning of the end?

Two articles that help emphasize the importance of the recent Summit of the Americas in Cartagena.

Douglas Haddow’s OpEd in the Guardian is a must-read: Did Cartagena mark the beginning of the end of the war on drugs?

But while lurid tales of secret service agents behaving like hirelings on a piss-up tour make for tasty headlines, the summit could well be remembered not for its failures, but as the beginning of the end of the war on drugs.

The significance of what transpired over the weekend cannot be overstated: in years past, we’ve seen countless instances of former leaders, judges and law enforcement officers coming forward to argue the case for international drug policy reform, but this is the first time we’ve seen sitting governments openly discussing ending the war on drugs in a diplomatic setting. […]

If we view Cartagena within the framework of a traditional war, what we have witnessed is the first draft of an armistice. The problem with the drug war, and the reason why it has taken so long for reformers to gain any traction, is that it has remained a niche issue due to its deeply classist nature. In a global context, developing nations endure the violence while the developed subsidise it, through both consumer demand and law enforcement funding. Within the developed countries a similar formula is reproduced; with poor neighbourhoods and demographics taking the place of their nation-state equivalents.

The corrosive results of this arrangement are obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. […]

The shift in language at the Cartegena summit presents a rare opportunity for a global policy renaissance that would have profound implications on how citizens relate to their governments.

Powerful stuff.

Also of interest, Coletta Youngers writing at Foreign Policy in Focus: Drug-Law Reform Genie Freed From Bottle at Summit of the Americas

The lasting legacy of the Cartagena summit, however, will likely be the beginning of a serious regional debate on international drug control policies. With the apparently adept leadership of Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, the issue was discussed at a private, closed-door meeting of the presidents – according to press accounts, it was the only issue discussed at that meeting – and Santos later announced that as a result of the presidents’ discussion, the Organization of American States (OAS) was tasked with analyzing the results of present policy and exploring alternative approaches that could prove to be more effective. A topic long considered taboo – the U.S. “war on drugs” – is now being seriously questioned and debate on new strategies – including legal, regulated markets – is officially on the regional agenda.

The significance of this development cannot be underestimated. For years, Washington has used its economic and political muscle to squash any dissenting opinions from Latin American governments. Academics and other experts who proposed alternative policies were ostracized as “legalizers,” even if that is not what they were proposing. The “L” word could not even be mentioned in official circles. In fact, the present debate is not about outright legalization per se but rather legal, regulated markets. Administration officials, nonetheless, continue to misconstrue the issue. At the summit, President Obama said that drug traffickers could “dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint.”

Now, Latin American governments have turned the tables, taking on a leadership role in considering alternative policies.

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11 comments to Beginning of the end?

  • Duncan20903

    I’m amazed at the mileage you can get from a South American prostitute for a lousy $47.

    • [thought bubble]”hmmm… pay the hooker $47 or lose my career and cost several of my friends theirs… ah, hell, she doesn’t need the money.”

  • Thud!

    Ok folks… OSHA requirements specifically say that not just hard hats but safety orange vests w/ reflective tape are now req’d. We’ll be positioning safety cones near the most structurally threatened parts of the WO(s)D Wall.

    Backhoes and dump trucks have been rquisitioned and Pat Robertson is donating a case of caution flagging tape. Heck, I may still have a roll of the yellow tape from WTO that says UNSEEN CRIMES…

    • Francis

      Yeah, it does seem as though the “thuds” are coming closer together lately – and getting louder….

  • Randy

    Faster! Please! This immorality can’t end soon enough.

  • Metabaron

    President Obama said that drug traffickers could “dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint.”

    Did that creep even realize that he gave an accurate description of the situation in mexico?
    What a turd…

    • Jose

      Politicians seem to know they can get a pass on tough answers by simply re-phrasing the problem or question. Very annoying how they can answer a question by replying but actually giving no answer.

  • primus

    Tipping point. Keep pushing, because it could go any which way.

  • well… it’s so nice to no longer be voices in the wilderness. We have come a long ways. Really. And I swear there is a window open… I feel a fresh breeze blowing.

    Leonard Pitts in the Houston Chron:

    Obama hides behind specious argument in drug debate

    The president’s reasoning is about as sturdy as a cardboard box in a monsoon. Even he must know – who can still deny? – that the drug war has failed. When it comes to quantifying that failure, several numbers are stark and edifying:

    Forty-one. That’s how many years the war on drugs has raged.

    Forty million-plus. That’s how many Americans have been arrested.

    One trillion-plus. That’s the cost.

    Two thousand, eight hundred. That’s the percentage by which drug use has risen.

    One-point-three. That’s the percentage of Americans who were drug addicted in 1914.

    One-point-three. That’s the percentage of Americans who are drug addicted now.

    Art Carden at Forbes:

    Let’s Be Blunt: It’s Time to End the Drug War

    For the sake of the argument, let’s go ahead and assume that everything you’ve heard about the dangers of drugs is completely true. That probably means that using drugs is a terrible idea. It doesn’t mean, however, that the drug war is a good idea.

    Prohibition is a textbook example of a policy with negative unintended consequences. Literally: it’s an example in the textbook I use in my introductory economics classes (Cowen and Tabarrok, Modern Principles of Economics if you’re curious) and in the most popular introductory economics textbook in the world (by N. Gregory Mankiw).The demand curve for drugs is extremely inelastic, meaning that people don’t change their drug consumption very much in response to changes in prices. Therefore, vigorous enforcement means higher prices and higher revenues for drug dealers. In fact, I’ll defer to Cowen and Tabarrok—page 60 of the first edition, if you’re still curious—for a discussion of the basic economic logic:

    The more effective prohibition is at raising costs, the greater are drug industry revenues. So, more effective prohibition means that drug sellers have more money to buy guns, pay bribes, fund the dealers, and even research and develop new technologies in drug delivery (like crack cocaine). It’s hard to beat an enemy that gets stronger the more you strike against him or her.

    Obama Administration Increases Drug War Spending

    WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–April 18 – Earlier today, the Obama administration released its annual National Drug Control Strategy, detailing the methods and budgets planned to combat drug use for fiscal year 2013. The report stresses that more resources need to be spent on addiction treatment and prevention, and that an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” is unworkable. The report shows, however, that budget allocations for traditional law enforcement methods could increase by hundreds of millions of dollars, including domestic military operations. Government data from previous years have shown no connection between drug-arrest rates and drug-use rates.

    While significant portions of the budget are dedicated to harm reduction and abuse prevention programs, many of the “drug war” methods that have proven ineffective over the last 40 years — particularly those used to enforce marijuana prohibition — will likely see funding increases this year. Domestic law enforcement is slated to receive $9.4 billion, a $61.4 million increase from last year. The Department of Defense Domestic Counterdrug support program will get nearly $150 million this year, a $124 million increase. Over $4.5 billion will be spent on federal incarceration of drug users and distributors. In addition, the Obama administration has requested the revival of the Youth Drug Prevention Media Program with a $20 million budget. Studies have shown that this program had the opposite of the intended effect on teens, and Congress allocated no money for the program last year.

    [emphasis mine – æ]

  • Curmudgeon

    There are more of us than there are of them. This wall shall fall.