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Latin American Countries Turning to Drug Legalization

The United States has long been in a war against drugs – a war that appears to be a losing battle. A recent Fog City Journal piece shows that the most obvious proof of this failed war is in Mexico.

The true war between the government and the cartels in Mexico has claimed more than 12,000 lives. The situation has become so violent, the Mexican government is taking a new approach in the decriminalization of small quantities of drugs for personal use. This approach is expected to free up more law enforcement resources to handle dealers and traffickers.

In truth, it is assumed that this approach could backfire. The intention of the law was the end the shakedown of small-time users by Mexican law enforcement. This could ultimately lead instead to more corruption as officers will have wide discretion over what to do with those caught with more than the allowed amount.

The law also dictates that users should be referred to treatment, although the penalties for non-compliance are still unclear. The idea is to approach these users as a public health concern instead of a law enforcement issue. In the end, officials could just take a “leave them alone” type approach that could only fuel the fire.

Mexico is not the only Latin American country to take such an approach. Argentina President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner called for drug decriminalization. According to the Argentine Minister for Justice, Security, and Human Rights “Decriminalization of the consumer should include what are called second-generation human rights, but at the same time there should be a strong policy of prevention.”

This battle rages on and other countries are trying to take a similar approach. As for the United States, their approach of turning a blind eye has helped ensure such laws are not strongly opposed. Considering the failed efforts of the U.S. government in the war against drugs, such laws may prove effective.

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