ANOTHER SEATING PRESIDENT JOINS THE CLUB
Here we go, again. Another seating president joins the club. This time is the current president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez, who adds his to the calls made by seating presidents of Colombia and Mexico, by former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, as well as those made by the members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, to replace the current prohibitionist regime with one that does not criminalise the drugs market; that is, the whole market chain, not just the consumption of drugs.
What is really remarkable about the calls coming from both current and former Latin American presidents is their insistence that no significant change in drugs policies could be ever achieved, unless consuming countries are willing and able to take ownership of their responsibility on the status quo and support a radical overhaul of the international conventions that criminalise the consumption and production of illegal drugs.
Any person who cares to look at how the international community has reacted so far to their calls, especially to Bolivia failed attempt to amend the 1961 Convention, a rather symbolic change I must add, has no choice but to conclude that there is very little producing countries can do on their own to replace the War on Drugs policies with more rational ones as long as the countries with the real power to do it say otherwise. And the real power, literally and metaphorically, is in the hands of consuming countries, most conspicuously the US.
Now, the obvious question one has to ask is what has been the response of consuming countries to the repeated calls for support those countries at the other side of the fence have been making for decades?
Maybe I am wrong, perhaps I have read the wrong newspapers, have followed the wrong blogs, or all of the above, but the fact is that I have not heard any voices from those governments supporting Bolivia’s decision or Calderon and Santos’ call for “market alternatives”, let alone, promoting more rational and effective policies regarding the supply of drugs on their own accord.
I find it rather cynical the way we, consuming countries, have completely ignored what has been happening on the other side of the drug market, the supply (production and distribution) of drugs. For we have decided that despite the havoc our demand for drugs under the current prohibitionist regime is creating in drug producing countries, what matters is what happens at home and at home alone.
As it happens, a number of countries such as the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, among many others, have in a way “quasi legalised” the demand for drugs. They have de jure or de facto depenalised or decriminalised the personal consumption of some drugs, including cocaine and heroin.
In the case of marijuana, some countries have even “quasi legalised” the supply as well by allowing users to grow a number of marijuana plants in their homes and for their own consumption, by tolerating the operation of so called “cannabis social clubs”, or by authorising the cultivation of marijuana to supply dispensaries where consumption on medical grounds is allowed.
In the US, for instance, the consumption of marijuana for medical reasons is allowed in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, the value of marijuana produced in the US to supply the domestic demand is estimated to be over $35 billion, making it the nation’s largest cash crop.
You would be forgiven for thinking that countries that have “quasi legalised” the consumption or the domestic production of drugs would be vociferously demanding the immediate introduction of changes in the current drugs policies regarding the supply by major producing and distributing countries, too. Well, you could not be more wrong, I am afraid.
Rather than using our enormous political and economic clout to reform the international conventions that sustain Prohibition and the War on Drugs, we keep supporting, promoting and enforcing the illegality of the supply of drugs. And by blaming it on the existing laws, we have been able to walk away from our responsibility for the atrocious consequences it has had on producing countries.
I do not have any doubts that policies such harm reduction programmes, decriminalisation or depenalisation of the demand for drugs are sensible and necessary policies. But if we were serious about tackling the so-called drug problem, we should be accompanying those same policies with equally sensible policies towards the supply of drugs.
Moreover, I will go as far as to say that the onus is on us, drug consuming countries in the developed world. We should be the ones promoting the Legalisation & Regulation of the supply. We should be the ones making all the noises calling for a change in the national and international legislation on drugs. We should be spearheading the movement seeking to legalise the production and distribution of all drugs.