OAS to White House and Hemisphere: It’s High Time to Consider Legalizing Pot

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Mauricio DueÒas CastaÒeda / EPA

Organization of American States Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza, speaks after the organization presented its report about illicit drugs in the continent to the Colombian Government in Bogota, Colombia, on May 17, 2013.

On the Latin American street, the Organization of American States has always borne a reputation, often undeserved, as Washington’s lackey. But the OAS, based in Washington, just sent the western hemisphere a message the White House would rather not hear: It’s time to seriously discuss legalizing marijuana as one means of reducing harrowing drug violence. That conclusion, from a study presented last Friday in Bogotá, Colombia, by OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza, is one that a growing number of Latin American governments — including Uruguay, which might legalize marijuana this year — are urging the Obama Administration to accept. Having the motion seconded by Washington’s “lackey” makes it harder to ignore.

But even as Insulza and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos were hailing the OAS report last week, something else was brewing in Bogotá that could further undermine resistance to pot legalization. The Colombian capital is about to start a program that uses marijuana to wean junkies off bazuco, a cheap but fiercely addictive cocaine paste. It will mark one of the largest experiments to determine if marijuana — which legalization opponents still insist is a “gateway” to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin — is in reality an “exit” drug. If so, it will only serve to reinforce the argument, mentioned by the OAS study, that marijuana is a relatively benign drug, far more comparable to alcohol than it is, say, to crystal meth.

(MORELegalizing Marijuana and Other Ways the U.S. and Mexico Can Win the Drug War)

As Miami Herald South America correspondent Jim Wyss recently wrote from Bogotá, “For the most desperate [bazuco] users, the cannabis cure may be the only way out.” Or as one social worker told Wyss, “We want people to quit a substance that is very, very damaging and transition to something less dangerous and which will allow them to function in society.” Critics say the effort will just turn bazuco zombies into potheads. But for years now, similar projects in countries like Brazil, Jamaica and most recently Canada have indicated that marijuana is in fact an effective exit drug. In British Columbia last fall, a team of U.S. and Canadian addiction researchers determined that “clinical trials on cannabis substitution for problematic substance abuse appear justified.”

That doesn’t mean we should all start smoking herb like Harold and Kumar. The fact that a glass of hot bourbon can relieve common cold symptoms doesn’t mean we should all start drinking Manhattans, either. But affirming marijuana as an exit drug would lead us to reconsider one of modern society’s most glaring double standards: booze good, pot bad. It would reinforce the notion that moderate marijuana use is not more perilous than moderate alcohol consumption. According to studies, in fact, pot smoking in some cases can be a preferable alternative to drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco.

(MORE: The Obama Administration Looks to Latin America After Years of Neglect)

So why do we waste so many resources (almost $10 billion each year in the U.S. alone) as well as lives hunting down marijuana users and sellers? The OAS’s $2 million report “The Drug Problem in the Americas” seems to ask the same thing. It is not an outright call for marijuana legalization. It is, as Insulza said in Bogotá, “the beginning of a long-awaited discussion” about “more realistic [drug war] policies.” Most Latin American leaders — whose countries suffer the bloody brunt of the largely failed U.S.-led drug war — already made it clear to President Obama at last year’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, that it’s high time to ask whether marijuana legalization might help reduce drug cartel revenues and therefore drug cartel mayhem. (Studies indicate it could rob Mexico’s narco-mafias of a third of the estimated $30 billion they rake in each year.)

Insulza acknowledged the current “disposition” throughout the Americas to “deal with the legalization issue,” and he called for “greater flexibility” on the part of nations like the U.S. The 400-page OAS study itself concludes that trends in the hemisphere “lean toward decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale and use of marijuana. Sooner or later, decisions in this area will need to be taken.” Santos, who is widely considered Washington’s closest ally in Latin America today, has not yet endorsed legalization, but he said the report should help drug-war battered countries like his “seek better solutions” than the conventional interdiction strategy Washington still pushes.

Former presidents of three of Latin America’s largest economies — Brazil, Mexico and Colombia — have jointly called for marijuana legalization. In the U.S., the states of Washington and Colorado last fall voted to legalize pot. Now that the OAS has joined that chorus, both the White House and the U.S. Congress need to join the discussion with more open ears.

MOREObama’s Mexico Visit: Not Just About the Drug War Anymore

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Uruguay legalized marijuana last year. It is still debating the bill, which Uruguayan President José Mujica supports.

31 comments
frankgrimes78
frankgrimes78

Anyone who doesn't support legalization is a moron and knows nothing about the true costs of the U.S led war on drugs. You are all just sheep believing whatever your government tells you, meanwhile you probably consume alcohol on a weekly basis. Bottom line to all you anti legalization whiners. YOU WILL LOSE. There is too much momentum on this train baby and you couldn't stop us if you tried.

Unbiasedude
Unbiasedude like.author.displayName 1 Like

I work hard every day

Putting up with stress for the pay

Paying taxes they take

Every evening I say

Need relief from this pain

Make the pain go away

Take the stress off my shoulders

Give me a joint for my pain

But don't make my work world go away

Locking me up in a cell won't pay

Cause I would pay taxes those days

So when the pain goes away

I havn't hurt anyone in any way

I've just gained solace for the way

To work hard another day

Make the pain go away

Take the stress off my shoulders

Give me a joint for my pain.

Make big brother go away

And solve a real crime for the day.

mx9193
mx9193

how can you call your writing not bias......tell me why is the OAS repution undeserved?

gllahone84
gllahone84 like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's time we all wake up on this issue. A benign herb that has been demonized for years, the government needs a serious re framing of laws. ASAP. The war on drugs has been a total failure, and it's now become cliche to say so. 


projectpeace
projectpeace like.author.displayName 1 Like

In spite of political mis-leadership, directed by chemically-vested corporations, the people of the world have learned and are continuing to discover the true value of Cannabis; an "herb bearing seed" that is both unique and essential to human interface with the Natural Order, collapsing under the weight of human arrogance, avarice, denial, fear and irresponsibility.

Nickbarrack
Nickbarrack like.author.displayName 1 Like

If hemp and marijuana was legalize it would fix so many problems in America. It would create millions of jobs and natural medicine none of those pain killers that do horrible things to your body. And you can't overdose on marijuana it would take 10000 joints smoked in 20 minutes to overdose on THC

Psychface
Psychface

@Nickbarrack

Go read this article full of recent empirically supported studies and tell me if it would fix any problems.  Not to mention what it would by increasing lung-related illness and thus money to pay for Medicare and Medicaid with 20% more people covered soon and on the verge of bankruptcy now.  Just lung disease costs the avg USA household over $600/year in taxes to treat everyone...it would cause problems of proportions you couldn't even fathom.

http://www.msma.org/docs/communications/momed/Medicinal_Use_Cannabis.pdf

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

Pot today.

Crack tomorrow.

JohnThomas
JohnThomas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

The Drug Czar's own 1999 Institute of Medicine study of marijuana concluded the "gateway" theory is just a myth that does not operate in reality. This has been confirmed by every legitimate study since then.

In fact, SAMHSA research shows that for every 100 people who try marijuana, only ONE later becomes a regular consumer of the next most popular "illegal" drug - cocaine.

Clearly, instead of being a gateway, marijuana is actually a TERMINUS drug - being the LAST one most people ever consume.

JeffJohnson1
JeffJohnson1 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

@mary.waterton Alcohol today, cigarettes today, hopefully pot tomorrow.  Especially if it may potentially get people OFF alcohol and tobacco!

And thanks Mary, for lumping pot in with crack cocaine.  It shows everyone just how off base you are!

jacobmaloney
jacobmaloney like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@mary.waterton If you really think that, then your opinion has been rendered invalid. For your sake, I hope you don't really believe that. 

batteredup
batteredup

I believe it too, Mary. We all believe it except you. Mary.

Optimisticman
Optimisticman like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

I work hard every day

Putting up with stress for the pay

Paying taxes they take

Every evening I say

Need relief from this pain

To work hard another day

Make the pain go away

Take the stress off my shoulders

Give me a joint for my pain

But don't make my work world go away

Locking me up in a cell won't pay

Cause I would pay taxes those days

So when the pain goes away

I havn't hurt anyone in any way

I've just gained solace for the way

To work hard another day

Make the pain go away

Take the stress off my shoulders

Give me a joint for my pain.

Make big brother go away

And solve a real crime for the day.

GartValenc
GartValenc like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

As far as I’m concerned, three things make the OEA’s two-part report extremely valuable:

1. It has been approved by the governments of the 35 countries that make up the OEA—an institution hardly regarded as progressive

2. Given its provenance, no politician will any longer be able to avoid the debate by arguing that Latin America is not mature enough to appreciate the complexities of the issue, that it is too controversial to be discussed or that to discuss it would amount to political suicide, and

3. It is as a document with enormous pedagogical value. By putting the arguments and counter-arguments out in the open for all to see, the study provides an accessible, highly readable starting point for understanding the main issues, and should be used to encourage, inform and guide the debate on alternative drug policies.

I do believe that it is the duty of governments, universities, schools, drug law reformers and civil societies as a whole to promote the reading of this study which, by the way, is freely available here:  http://www.oas.org/en/default.asp

Gart Valenc
Twitter: @gartvalenc

GartValenc
GartValenc like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

As a European citizen I have to say I find Europe’s lack of support/silence/absence from the debate utterly disgraceful.

It is urgent Europe take note and support LatAm call for alternative drugs policies. I say it is time we show some courage!

Gart Valenc
Twitter: @gartvalenc

DavidPenn
DavidPenn like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

I agree with the exit drug argument, I tend to use less tobacco after using pot, but also went from problem drinker to very occasional. point be known it really depends on the situation what to use if at all, and what kind of discomfort and or level thereof.

cohara1103
cohara1103 like.author.displayName 1 Like

at AA meetings a friend goes to they call it the marijuana maintenance program

jacobmaloney
jacobmaloney like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@DavidPenn I have known so many people that have used Cannabis to quit what they are hooked on. Heroin, Meth, Tobacco, Alcohol, lots of acohol in fact. Cannabis is quite amazing, people who are alcoholics usually don't even like it, they get drug tested or are afraid, so they drink instead.

JohnThomas
JohnThomas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Everyone who has been paying attention knows marijuana is less "addictive" than coffee and FAR less harmful than alcohol. Indeed, polls show public support for ending marijuana prohibition has now passed 50 percent - nationwide. So why do we still have this barbaric persecution?

Because police, prosecutors and politicians build their careers and empires on it. Because industries like alcohol and pharmaceuticals don't want the competition. Because other interests like the drug treatment/testing industry and the prison industries depend on it for their life's blood. Because many shaky corporations couldn't exist without the laundered money. And because government uses marijuana prohibition as a means of controlling minorities and the poor.

Also, the TRILLIONS of dollars made by the drug gangs have not been buried in the ground. They have been invested in legitimate business, causing another huge support of this persecution of millions of innocent people.

For a good view underneath the ice burg, see Catherine Austin Fitts' excellent article: "Narco Dollars For Beginners." - keeping in mind that while Fitts employs cocaine because it best suits her metaphor, FBI statistics show marijuana sales comprise 80 percent of all "illegal" drug transactions.


http://www.ratical.org/co-globalize/narcoDollars.html

It's time to dismantle the marijuana-prohibition-industrial-police-criminal complex!

batteredup
batteredup like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

you left out the privatized prisons for profit.

legalbuds
legalbuds like.author.displayName 1 Like

Stock Alert $ERBB Tranzbyte Acquires the YO!(TM) Debit Card Network used for Marijuana dispensaries. <