U.S. Marijuana Laws Ricochet Through Latin America
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U.S. Marijuana Laws Ricochet Through Latin America
Posted by CN Staff on January 07, 2013 at 05:41:56 PT
By Alfonso Serrano
Source: Time Magazine 
World -- President Obama has yet to deliver a clear response to the November decision by Colorado and Washington to legalize recreational marijuana use — asked whether the government would enforce Federal laws that override the verdict of those states’ referenda, he answered simply that he has “bigger fish to fry”. But leaders from across Latin America responded within days of the Colorado and Washington vote, demanding a review of drug-war policies that have mired the region in violence. Latin American decision-makers are now openly questioning why they should continue to sacrifice police andsoldiers to enforce drug laws when legal markets for marijuana now exist in the United States.
“Everyone is asking, what sense does it make to keep up such an intense confrontation, which has cost Mexico so much, by trying to keep this substance from going to a country where it’s already regulated and permitted?” says Fernando Belaunzarán, a congressman from Mexico’s opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party who introduced a marijuana legalization measure in the legislature a week after U.S. elections. The measure, Belaunzarán tells TIME, is modeled on the Washington State law, and would put the federal government in charge of marijuana production, regulation and sales. The congressman said he expects the lower house to convene public hearings on marijuana legalization by May 2013. Belaunzarán joins a growing list of Latin American leaders calling for a change in the drug war paradigm — one that considers drug decriminalization and legalization as alternatives to the U.S.-led prohibitionist model, the enforcement of which has helped turn swaths of Latin American into the world’s most violent regions. Shortly after U.S. elections, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, along with the presidents of Honduras, Belize and Costa Rica, said the United Nations General Assembly should hold a special session the drug prohibition by 2015. They also called on the Organization of American States to study the impact of current drug policy on the region. That OAS review, well underway, is expected in June. A major concern centers on drug cartels. Estimates of Mexican cartel profits from marijuana sales to the U.S. vary from $2 billion to $20 billion annually. And recent studies suggest that the Colorado and Washington pot laws could dent cartel profits by up to 30% given the probable emergence of cheaper, U.S.-produced marijuana. That loss of revenue, and therefore of power, could generate more violence in the region, experts fear. But the notion that drug cartels would suffer mammoth losses remains an open question. It also underestimates the growing sophistication of Mexican criminal groups. Mexican cartels have diversified their criminal portfolios with impressive speed since 2006, when Calderon began deploying the army against them. Besides marijuana profits, cartels generate an estimated $15 billion annually from human trafficking, preying on Central and South American migrants making their way north toward the United States. Criminal gangs are also increasingly relying on Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil behemoth, for added income. Oil theft has surged in recent years, netting cartels roughly$500 million annually, according to Mexican studies. And the methamphetamine market represents another opportunity to supplement any revenue lost to marijuana sales. Cartels have responded to a recent drop in U.S. meth production by flooding the market with the synthetic drug, producing it on mass scale in northern Guatemala. “The (U.S.) marijuana laws will have absolutely no impact on criminal group’s balance sheets,” Edgardo Buscaglia, an organized-crime expert and senior scholar at Columbia University, tells TIME. “They have diversified their criminal activity with astounding efficiency, just like any legal enterprise.” Whether the U.S. laws will undercut cartels at all remains to be seen, but no impact is likely to be felt any time soon. Still, the Washington and Colorado referendum results have reshaped the drug-war debate in Latin America, emboldening regional leaders to press for a global discussion on drug policy, organized through the U.N., aimed at changing drug-war tactics. Until now, the U.N. has ignored those calls, but there are signs it may soon take up the matter, according to former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who, with the former presidents of Mexico and Colombia, launched the hemispheric debate on drug decriminalization in 2009. That year he wrote an open letter criticizing the current drug war and calling on the region to discuss alternative strategies. “Members of the U.N. agree we need to revisit the subject, but the problem is that sectors within the U.N. that deal specifically with drugs are very conservative,” Cardoso tells TIME. “In my meetings at the U.N., I noticed that the pressure to unite a U.N. assembly specifically dedicated to discussing the subject is mounting. And that’s important.” Global drug policy is unlikely to change soon. But decriminalization advocates see encouraging signs. In just a few months, they point out, the Marijuana legalization discussion has reached levels of urgency and legitimacy never seen before. Marijuana legalization, they point out, is now a political reality throughout the hemisphere. They are also encouraged by President Obama, whorecently framed the marijuana conflict between state and federal law as one to be resolved, instead of simply dismissing state law. “It’s time the world discuss a new paradigm to confront drugs,” says Belaunzarán. “In Latin America it’s already happening. And the U.S. is applying it de facto because states are already regulating marijuana.”Source: Time Magazine (US)Author: Alfonso SerranoPublished: January 7, 2013Copyright: 2013 Time Inc.Contact: letters time.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on January 07, 2013 at 07:41:27 PT
Simply put,
Prohibitionists are losing control.When examined closely, it is clear, ending cannabis prohibition and extermination is one of the most important issues of Our time. The policy failure is related to so many problems that it is becoming more clear through time.More people are finding it difficult to ignore. More people are realizing that cannabis prohibition and extermination must end. Countries south of the U.S. w/ large populations of brown people are paying the ultimate price and they are quickly waking up! I'm surprised it's taken this long for them to feel the brunt of racism that cannabis prohibition is based on. Why did it take so long???Cannabis prohibitionists are losing control of their ability to perpetuate what should have ended decades ago.
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on January 07, 2013 at 07:30:30 PT
It's interesting how the US prefers to keep its neighbors destabilized, poor, and violent. Probably one reason why our run on top is not going to last very long.Contrast our colonialist approach with Rome - Rome usually granted partnerships and shared business dealings with the provinces it conquered. Submitting and joining the Roman empire was actually an attractive option for many of the conquered.Rome was able to last for centuries this way. How long's it been since WWII? 65 years?
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