When the recent Summit of the Americas in
For starters, it was the first time that such a large group of heads of state ventured into that once taboo area. And there are several other non-related factors that may contribute to put decriminalization in the front burner later this year, or in early 2013.
At a closed meeting during the
Earlier this week, I called OAS Secretary General
Skeptics say the leaders did what they usually do when they don't know how to solve a problem: they kicked it forward. It will take years for the OAS commission to make its recommendations, they say.
But supporters note that the region's pro-legalization movement is gaining momentum, and that the OAS study may give it further legitimacy.
Only a decade ago, the debate about drug legalization was limited to academic circles, they note. Then, in 2009, three former presidents --
Earlier this year, for the first time, a sitting Latin American president --
Asked how soon the OAS will complete the study, Insulza told me that they want to finish it by the end of this year, and release it by next March.
It will be a comprehensive study that will look into the business of drug trafficking, the success or failure of various European countries that have experimented with decriminalization and regulation of the drug trade, as well as ways to improve education, prevention and rehabilitation, he said. Several other regional institutions, including the
"What will be new is that we will offer several alternatives to what is being done right now," Insulza said. "The idea is not to tell presidents what should be done, but to give them a menu of options."
My opinion: Several factors will converge late this year, or in early 2013, to place the drug debate at the top of the U.S.-Latin American diplomatic agenda.
Third, the OAS study may include decriminalization of marijuana among its "menu of options," encouraging more presidents to join the pro-decriminalization camp. The OAS, which has not been doing a good job defending democracy or human rights lately, may take its drug policy mandate seriously, if anything else to become more relevant.
A blanket legalization of hard drugs may not be the best idea, but if the OAS report concludes that decriminalization of marijuana would give countries more resources to help combat harder drugs, it will be a better alternative than the war on drugs that is costing so many lives -- and money -- nowadays.
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