Last week, while the Obama administration was dealing with the embarrassment of the Secret Service scandal at the Summit of Americas in Columbia, developments on the far more important issue of the failed War on Drugs were taking center stage.
It began back in March at a regional Central American meeting between Guatemalan President Oscar Pérez Molina and the presidents from Costa Rica and Panama. During the meeting, President Molina pointedly stated:
“We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives….”
To President Molina, this means that:
drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated. He suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.
While no agreements by the heads of state were made at either the March meeting or at last week’s Summit of Americas, President Molina has indeed succeeded in moving this issue of critical import to all nations to the forefront of international debate. President Molina’s call was heard loud and clear by Obama inciting this response
at the Summit:
“I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places…. I personally, and my administration’s position, is that legalization is not the answer.”
Understandably, embroiled in a re-election dogfight, Obama will not take the bait by adopting a new policy regarding drugs now. Yet, by suggesting a “conversation” is warranted he is leaving the door open to working on a change to the tired drug war approach – perhaps upon re-election, but more likely in year three of a second term. To most of us, primarily the Central American nations ravaged by the failed War on Drugs, change cannot come soon enough.
Today, the unofficial holiday of medical and recreational cannabis consumers – 4/20 – the Atlantic published a great speech Obama ought to give. It begins:
After careful consideration and a through review by the Justice Department, and with the consent and cooperation of other relevant federal agencies, I announce today that this Administration will have a new approach to the issue of medical marijuana in those states which have legalized it. Our new policies are consistent with the promises I made as a candidate, they finally make good on pronouncements I made early in my term, they are faithful in their traditional deference to states’ rights, and they sensibly redirect federal resources at a time when we need every budget dollar we can find.
I have directed the attorney general to issue a directive to all U.S. attorneys and other federal officials that they may no longer raid or threaten to prosecute medical-marijuana growers and distributors in those states that have legalized the use of the drug.
However, a federal crackdown
on medical cannabis, particularly in California, is in full force, and has been since last October. Could it be that developments in nearby Central American nations are what it takes to make those inside the beltway so impervious to majority opinion on drugs in general, and cannabis specifically, finally reform the current U.S. drug policy that has so obviously failed? Maybe, maybe not.
Earlier this week, the Huffington Post highlighted an open letter by 300 economists to the President and Congress calling attention to a paper by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron. Mr. Miron’s study asserts that the U.S. could save $13.7 billion by legalizing cannabis. Even during recessionary times this economic report is not enough to reform our archaic drug policy. So what will it take?
A perfect storm. Pressure from the south, from the north, and from within. Pressure from all of us that we’ve had enough of the lobbied interests ruining so many lives in the veiled name of their self-interest, not common sense. Enough is enough. Pick up the phone or pen – do something – our neighbors to the south depend on it.