The war on drugs is a textbook case of madness. Anyone who studies the narcotics trade knows the drug war is lost, and that decriminalization or outright legalization will eventually come to pass. But instead of admitting the obvious, governments around the world insist on fighting a losing battle.
Fortunately, a growing consensus is forming against this insane crusade. It's a movement that crosses the political spectrum, and includes people as diverse as police chiefs, social activists, global capitalists, heads of state and the average Jane on the street.
So in the spirit of telling the drug emperor that he has no clothes - to take a page from the popular fairy tale - let's look at those who are offering suggestions for reform.
Among this group is Vicente Fox, who also happens to be president of Mexico.
"Humanity some day will see that (legalization) is best," Fox told Mexican newspapers this past March. Legalizing drugs, he argued, would eliminate the profit motive that causes drug dealers to engage in violence.
This argument has also been put forward by Jorge Batlle Ibanez, president of Uruguay, who last year became the first head of state in the Americas to call for drug legalization.
"If you remove the economic incentive of the (drug business) it loses strength, it loses size, it loses people who participate," Batlle told a radio audience.
At a summit of Latin American leaders this past December, Batlle, who was talking about cocaine, said: "if this powder was worth only ten cents, there would not be organizations dedicated to make a billion dollars to fund armies in Colombia."
Forget Magazine readers will note a past column (Drug War 2) that described how the war on drugs is destroying Colombia.
What is frustrating, however, is that neither Mexico nor Uruguay is planning to legalize drugs any time soon. The reason for this is simple: Washington won't allow it.
"One thing is (Fox's) personal attitude and another is pragmatism faced with the United States," Luis Astorga, a Mexican sociologist who studies the drug trade, told The Associated Press.
Predictably, the White House is not rethinking its failed drug policies. President George W. Bush also doesn't like to refer to published stories in the mainstream press about his past cocaine use. What he does mention is the U.S.-funded Plan Colombia, a $1.3 billion anti-drug plan to fight the narcotics trade in South America.
In response, over 100 Latin American leaders wrote to Bush in April telling him to rethink Plan Colombia. The anti-drug plan, the letter argued, would only worsen the civil war in Colombia, while doing nothing to stop the shipment of drugs to North America.
Among those who signed the letter: Julio Garret Aillon, former vice-president of Bolivia; Ivan Guerrero Guevara, governor of the Colombian state of Putumayo; Noble laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala; and world renowned Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes.
Meanwhile, some leading politicians in the United States have called for the legalization of drugs. The best known is New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who has called for the legalization of heroin and marijuana. The governor of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which borders New Mexico and Texas, has also called for the legalization of certain drugs.
In Canada, several groups are calling for the decriminalization of drugs. Instead of outright legalization, decriminalization would reduce penalties to a level similar to parking fines, while removing the threat of a criminal record.
Keith Martin, an Alliance MP, told me in an interview in June that the government should consider decriminalizing certain drugs. This past May, Martin introduced a private members bill that would remove criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana, and replace them with fines of up to $1,000. His bill was not approved.
Then there's Joe Clark, leader of the federal Conservatives, who said in May that he supports decriminalizing marijuana. This statement echoed similar calls by the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
Finally, before the summer parliamentary recess, the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to establish a committee to look at the use of non-medical drugs. The issue of decriminalization is likely to come up.
In the Senate, a committee is already studying the issue of non-medical drugs. Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin, who heads the committee, favours legalizing marijuana.
Drug legalization story from The News (Mexico City newspaper): +++
Letter to Bush signed by more than 100 Latin American leaders: +++
Mexican federal police chief supports legalizing drugs: +++
Narco News story on Jorge Batlle: +++
Los Angeles Times story on Jorge Batlle: +++
AP Story on Vicente Fox drug legalization statement: +++
Ottawa Citizen story on Fox and drug legalization: +++