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Marijuana laws and international crime policies

By Beckett Mufson, Columnist

Dozens of medical organizations, from the American Nurses Association to the New England Journal of Medicine, have endorsed the use of marijuana for medical purposes and decriminalization of the drug for personal use. Drug cartels make over 2 billion dollars a year from growing and smuggling marijuana for U.S. markets. There are multiple organizations devoted to the purpose of affecting changes in marijuana laws all over the world.           

This is an international movement, and marijuana represents only about 20 percent of the profits drug cartels make from U.S. markets. Heroin, cocaine, and other hard drugs sold to an utterly addicted American market provide the other 80 percent of the profits that cartels use to wage their drug wars in Latin America. Murder rates in Central America and the Caribbean are the highest in the world due to the prevalence of drug production and smuggling in the area.  President Otto Perez Molina came into office in Guatemala at the height of its "dirty war" against the drug cartels. He campaigned promising a zero tolerance policy toward delinquency and the drug trade, about as conservative a drug policy as one could hope for.  Since his election in December of 2011, he has radically reversed his opinion, calling the war on drugs a failure and advocating limited legalization of the production and consumption of drugs. The President of Colombia also called on the U.S. to "take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking."         

These men head generally conservative regimes actively aligned with the United States, but they advocate the even more extreme legalization than the "hippie liberals" who picket and protest while covered in Bob Marley regalia.  Obviously, American drug policy isn't so fluid that a few cries for help from some Latin American nations will change them overnight.  The transition to legal drug use will come with lots of small logistical and moral issues that will inevitably crop up as our society copes with the shift in policy and the deterioration of the social and legal stigma associated with drug use.                

This will absolutely be difficult. Parents are going to have to teach their children about the dangers of marijuana and cocaine alongside responsible alcohol use.  Some people will get hurt.  Some will abuse the drugs. But society will adapt to this change, and the result will be the crippling of the drug cartels' most potent markets and the end of the failed war on drugs.                              

In Mexico alone, over 50,000 people have been killed due to drug-related gang activity.  All the evidence points to the fact that we are losing the war on drugs, and now is a time when we can still choose to adapt and change to preserve our integrity, rather than crumble at the hands of the ever more powerful gangs and cartels.                    

At the Summit of the Americas last Saturday, the President of Colombia called on the U.S. to retool its drug policy, putting pragmatism over blind attachment to misguided principles.  We, the people, need to seriously consider his plea. He is one of the most qualified to comment on the subject, and he is fighting to preserve his people. We are fighting to preserve an outdated outlook on the world around us.  It didn't work with Prohibition in the '30s, and it isn't working today; the time for change is now.


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