by Andres Oppenheimer
Latin American presidents who support decriminalization of marijuana won a big diplomatic victory in recent days when the 34-country
The 400-page OAS report, entitled The Drug Problem in the Americas, had been commissioned by Latin American countries at last year's Summit of the Americas attended by President
While it doesn't make recommendations, it cites decriminalization of marijuana as one of several policy options that countries might adopt, in effect putting the option on the table. It is believed to be the first time that an international organization considers decriminalization of marijuana use as a possible drug policy.
The report calls for "greater flexibility" in anti-drug policies, and notes there are "trends that lead toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale and use of marijuana."
It adds that "sooner or later, decisions in this area will need to be taken."
Conversely, decriminalizing or legalizing other drugs, such as cocaine, wouldn't be a good idea, it says. While marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol or tobacco, it says other drugs are.
In an interview, OAS Secretary General
"If a person is ill, you don't throw that person in jail," Insulza told me. "That person needs a special treatment, a treatment for somebody who has a serious addiction that must be overcome."
The OAS report comes after several Latin American presidents, including those of
These calls have intensified since
Gaviria told me in a separate interview that while the OAS report doesn't openly support decriminalization or legalization of drugs, "it broke the taboo that you couldn't talk about these issues. Now, it has become a legitimate debate."
The OAS report - which, incidentally, is so convoluted and badly written that it's hard to get a general message out of it - is to be discussed at the
The report might set in motion a diplomatic process that could lead to amending
My opinion: I'm not sure that legalizing drugs would be a great idea in
That might work in
But decriminalizing marijuana consumption makes sense. Instead of putting pot smokers in jail, tying up courts and sending young people to jails where they are recruited by criminals, we should use those funds to launch massive campaigns to dissuade young people from consuming all drugs.
In that sense, the OAS report is a step forward. There is little doubt that the U.S. war on drugs is not working - so much so, that the Obama administration is no longer using that term - and that alternatives must be found.