Regional Changes in the Drug Fighting Model

An interesing article titled Latin America Looks to Europe for Drug Fighting Models appeared in Pakistan's Business Recorder. The article is copyright Reuters but this is the first place I have seen it.

It discusses the initiative to legalize Marijuana in Colorado, legislation in Uruguay and a general change in attitude in Latin America. Some will see this as giving up the war on drugs but more and more people will see this as just a step toward personal liberty. For many countries, today's economics is making governments look at the cost-benefit of ongoing prohibition.

... countries from Brazil to Guatemala are exploring relaxing penalties for personal use of narcotics, following examples such as Spain and Portugal that have channelled resources to prevention rather than clogging jails. Latin America is the top world producer of cocaine and marijuana, feeding the huge demand in the United States and Europe. Domestic drug use has risen and drug gang violence has caused carnage for decades from the Mexican-US border to the slums of Brazil.

Note that I find the word narcotics in the article misleading. While cocaine is a narcotic, the absurd idea that marijuana deserves the same classification (thanks to US legislation) is probably the only thing that supports the gateway theory -- that is, if you start using pot you may transition to harder drugs.

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Portugal is treating drug addicts

As I understand it, addicts aren't free to just use drugs. They're sentenced to treatment rather than jail.

Rebecca Brown

"As I understand it, addicts aren't free to just use drugs"

As I understand it, addicts of petrocarbons - bad! addicts of drugs - good!

"Maybe, just once, someone will call me 'sir' without adding, 'you're making a scene." -Homer J. Simpson

If only it was that simple

A Wikipedia article talks about the issues and the (conflicting) statistics. While it is hard to draw conclusions related to amount of use, here are some things to consider:

  • Treating an illegal drug user as a patient rather than a criminal has many beneficial effects.
  • The costs associated with drug crime are significantly reduced.
  • A better distinction than "legal and illegal" for drugs is "addictive and non-addictive". For example, people can be addicted to and overdose on cocaine, alcohol or sugar but not on marijuana.
  • While consumption numbers are up for debate, most say problem usage (young teens, for example) goes down.

This debate is not about being pro-drug. It is about two other, very important things:

  1. The financial costs associated with a failed policy.
  2. The loss of liberty associated with a failed policy. (If you wonder why I picked the word liberty, see the Wikipedia entry.

From a usano point of view, I continue to be surprised by the mainstream political positioning on this issue. It seems pretty clear that the Republicans should be on the decriminalization bandwagon.