Throughout the Americas, differing approaches to drug policy reform
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Throughout the Americas, differing approaches to drug policy reform

Reposted with permission from the Latin America Daily Briefing blog

In the lead up to the 2016 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016) studies and opinions are piling up.

The Brooking Institution compares perspectives from around the world in The emerging global “dissensus” in drug policy: Geopolitics and UNGASS 2016. Latin America headlines among countries that are pushing for reform include Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico, while Brazil is included in those that are ambivalent. China and Russia are the new narcotics policemen.

The Economist made the same point in a piece on increasingly polarized attitudes towards drugs around the world. (See Friday’s post.) El País has an opinion piece that also notes the geopolitical divergence with respect to drug enforcement policies. The differing reactions have a lot to do with how the costs of the drug war are distributed, according to the authors. While Latin America faces record homicide rates, largely related to drug trafficking, Asia’s rate of drug consumption is high but has led to little violence.

Geoff Ramsey and John Walsh report for the Brookings Institution on Uruguay’s ground-changing legislation, the first country in the world to legalize and regulate every level of the cannabis market. They note that compared to similar cannabis laws in Washington and Colorado, the Uruguayan measure is more state-centered, with less emphasis on commercialization and greater restrictions on use. They recommend that authorities remain flexible regarding variables such as price and potency of strains made available to consumers; continue to adjust the law based on monitoring and evaluation; create an inspection and enforcement strategy for officials, and educate consumers and the public about drug prevention and the aims of the law.

Also in the Brookings Institution’s report, Daniel Mejía recommends Colombian authorities switch to manual eradication of coca fields — taking a stance in a hot button issue. While the Health Ministry has recommended eliminating glyphosate aerial sprayings of illegal coca fields, following a WHO finding that the substance is “probably” carcinogenic, the Defense Ministry says it will continue for now.

Read more: New pilot coca substitution program to test fumigation promises in Colombia

Mejía admits that the spraying campaigns have been successful in battling the drug trade — coca cultivation was reduced from 160,000 hectares to 48,000 hectares between 2000 and 2013 — but he says manual eradication is more cost effective and has fewer health and environmental side effects. In addition, he recommends centering eradication policies on alternative livelihood programs and anti-drug strategies on areas where the most value is added to the product, such as large cocaine production facilities and large cocaine shipments.

Continue reading at Latin America Daily Briefing…