US drug official William Brownfield

In a press conference that received little media attention, US official William Brownfield laid the groundwork for a new US approach to international drug policy, pointing to the changing political landscape on drug regulation in the Americas. 

In a meeting with reporters at the United Nations in New York on October 9, Brownfield set out the United States' position on international drug policy, including to "accept flexible interpretation" of the UN Drug Control conventions, which were first drafted in the 1960s. He stated that:

Things have changed since 1961. We must have enough flexibility to allow us to incorporate those changes into our policies ... to tolerate different national drug policies, to accept the fact that some countries will have very strict drug approaches; other countries will legalize entire categories of drugs.

Brownfield argued that, no matter their approach to drug regulation, all countries should "agree to combat and resist the criminal organizations -- not those who buy, consume, but those who market and traffic the product for economic gain."

Brownfield noted that changing legislation within the United States has affected the country's attitude to alternative drug policies in other countries. "How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?" Brownfield said.

Brownfield also revealed that he has agreed to exchange evaluations of marijuana legalization policies with government officials in Uruguay, in order to measure their impact on violence and organized crime.

The press conference was a follow-up to a speech Brownfield gave earlier that day to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.

InSight Crime Analysis

Brownfield's remarks advocating a more flexible approach to international drug policy are a milestone for the drug policy reform movement. They are another indication that the United States is beginning to look at illicit drugs as a public health problem and not just a criminal justice issue. In the 2014 White House National Drug Control Strategy Report (pdf), President Barack Obama noted that reforms to the criminal justice system had addressed sentencing disparities for drug crimes and offered alternatives to prison for nonviolent substance abusers.

 SEE ALSO: Coverage of Drug Policy

Brownfield's statements come as the United States is facing increasing pressure to rethink drug policy, with regional allies such as Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico all moving towards liberalized policies.

The more liberal position from the United States may also reflect changing drug consumption patterns at home. Brownfield stated that US cocaine consumption is nearly half of what it was 10 years ago, while abuse of prescription medications is now the country's greatest drug threat, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means that Washington may increasingly need to look inwards, rather than to Latin America, to fight its war on drugs.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.