LatAm Leaders Call for Analysis of US Marijuana Legalization Initiatives

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In a sign of increasing discontent with the dominant anti-drug strategy in the hemisphere, the heads of state of three Central American countries and Mexico have issued a joint statement calling for an analysis of the effects of recent votes to legalize marijuana in two US states.

On November 12, the leaders of Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and Belize released a statement declaring: “It has become necessary to analyze in depth the implications for public policy and health in our nations emerging from the state and local moves to allow the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana in some countries of our continent,” reported the Associated Press.

The leaders have called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to review the potential effects of the votes in Colorado and Washington, with Mexican President Felipe Calderon calling the move a “paradigm shift,” in global drug policy. They also requested the United Nations General Assembly to hold a special session on drug prohibition within the next three years.

Though the sale and distribution of marijuana for personal use will be legal in the two states, it remains illegal under US federal law.

InSight Crime Analysis

This joint declaration follows comments made by the head of Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto’s transition team last week that Mexico will have to review its drug policy in light of the move to legalize, stating that the incoming government would find it difficult preventing marijuana trafficking if its consumption is permitted north of the border.

According to a report by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, Mexico provides about 40 percent of US’s annual marijuana consumption.

Calderon and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla have both been critical of the existing punitive framework for drug policy in the past, with each saying a debate on new strategies, including legalization, is required. Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, on the other hand, has previously come out against legalization (See InSight Crime’s map on drug policy positions throughout the region).

The fact that the Colorado and Washington votes are causing drug policy hardliners — Peña Nieto included — to start calling for a review suggests the backlash against the US could grow over its perceived hypocrisy, as the country remains strictly opposed to drug decriminalization abroad.

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