Good news and bad news for drug policy reform

Uruguay & Guatemala pushes on with legalization, the US escalates crackdown, Oregon MJ qualifies for November ballot, Drug abuse down 50% in post-decriminalization Portugal

This week brought goods news and bad news for drug policy reform in the US and in Latin America:

Marijuana legalization project in Uruguay

The Uruguayan government is getting ready to send its marijuana legalization proposal to parliament for debate. That’s for the good news; the project is plugging along. The bad news is that so far only 24% of the Uruguay population support the proposal; President Mujica would like to get 60% approval to finalize the proposal, counting on widening support as the debates unfolds, a steep uphill educational battle ahead!

President Mujica announced today that he will tour the country to explain his proposal, emphasizing that his objective is to reduce drug-related crime.

Uruguay needs our support. Underneath is the link to the petition in support of the marijuana legalization project. Share on social networks and email.

Guatemala moving ahead on drug legalization debate

In Guatemala, President Perez Molina is moving ahead. On July 3, he became the first serving head of state to sign the Beckley Public Letter, calling for a paradigm shift in drug policy, joining seven former head of states Kofi Annan, and a slate of high-profile personalities. President Molina also launched the Beckley Foundation Guatemala, in order to assist in the development of new and more effective drug policies. Guatemala wants to build the case for a regional coalition for drug policy reform, a long a tedious, but necessary process.

At the impulse of Guatemala, drug legalization will be discussed in more details at the upcoming SICA meeting of regional heads of states.

The time has come to renew our support for the Guatemalan leading role in drug policy reform. If you haven’t done so yet, please sign the petition: Help spread it through social networks and emails.

In El Salvador, where the Catholic Church is a powerful force, the Archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar, called for a deepening debate on legalization during a press-conference on July 8.

Marijuana legalization on the ballot in Oregon, Fed escalates crackdown on medical mj

In the US, Oregon is the third state to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in November, joining Colorado and Washington State.

Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker joins a small but steadily growing group of vocal anti-drug war politicians. It looks like anti-prohibitionism is not such a vote-buster anymore.

But Obama doesn’t seem to be getting the message, as medical marijuana crack-downs continue and even escalate, with Harborside, the largest dispensary in the world, despite the protests from Oakland city leaders. It is very hard to figure out why Obama, an avid pot smoker during his college-years, embarked on such a losing proposition. The crack-downs will not gain him any support in the center, while it certainly demobilizes and antagonizes some of its most faithful supporters, youths and liberals, who gathered in droves to support him in 2008, but will stay home next November.

Ask Obama to leave medical marijuana alone, as he promised in 2008:

And in case you needed it, here is another illustration of the total idiocy of prohibition:

Meanwhile, Portugal has seen a 50% drop in drug abuse since the decriminalization of drug use and widespread adoption of harm reduction measures in 2001; drug-related crime dropped even further. If you read Portuguese:  For more detailed analysis: Need more evidence than prohibition doesn’t work?

And in case you needed it, here is another illustration of the total idiocy of prohibition:

New Action: Mark your calendar

Mark your calendar and get ready to participate in what could become one of the largest event for drug policy reform: Javier Sicilia and Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity will lead a caravan across the United States this summer, calling for an end to the drug war. The caravan will begin in San Diego this August and will visit two dozen U.S. cities on its way to Washington, DC.

Ongoing activist actions:

The time has come to renew our support for the Guatemalan leading role in drug policy reform. If you haven’t done so yet, please sign the petition: Help spread it through social networks and emails.

Uruguay needs our support more than ever. Share on social networks and email.

Obama needs to hear from you. Ask him to leave medical marijuana alone:

Stay tuned and keep up the fight. Thank you for your support.

Jeffrey Dhywood
Investigative writer,
Author of “World War D – The Case against prohibitionism, roadmap to controlled re-legalization”

Download a free 42 pages excerpt of  “World war-D”

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If you agree with our views, please share this message to support our cause. Send this message to at least 5 of your friends, post it on social networks, on your blogs, etc.

Drug legalization debate gaining momentum in Central America

Honduras President invite Colombia and Mexico to the March 24 SICA meeting in Guatemala

On March 9, Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa, acting as the SICA president and at the request of its members, invited Colombia and Mexico to join the next meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in Guatemala on March 24.  Both presidents Santos and Calderon accepted the invitation. The meeting will focus on the recent proposal by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina to legalize drugs.

Lobo Sosa notably declared: “President Calderón, President Santos, and the leaders of the Central American isthmus have agreed that the manner in which we are [dealing with drug trafficking] is not the solution because we continue to lose human lives.”

Although the debate has been brewing for a while, the first expression of regional discontent came on December 6th, 2011, with the publication of a declaration calling for the exploration of “regulatory or market oriented options”, signed by 10 heads of states of the Central-American and Caribbean region members of the Tuxtla System for Dialogue.

The current debate was launched by Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina, a former general elected on a law and order platform. Perez Molina surprised everyone a few days after taking office in January 14th, 2012 when he declared the war on drugs a failure and asked for an open debate to explore alternatives, including legalization. Following discussions with Colombian President Santos, President Perez Molina further declared on February 11th his intention to present his proposal for drug legalization at the April 14-15 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. He sent his Vice-President Roxana Baldetti on a tour to promote his proposal to regional leader on February 29th.

The move was greeted by a quick rebuke from the US government, who dispatched Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to the region on February 28th, one day ahead of Roxana Baldetti’s own tour. Napolitano was followed by US vice-president Joe Biden, who visited Mexico to reiterate US commitment to the War on Drugs, before heading to the March 6 meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) hosted by president Porfirio Lobo Sosa in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Considering President Lobo Sosa initial opposition to legalization, this latest move represents an interesting development. In his declaration, President Lobo Sosa affirmed  “This very important proposal is something that we need to assess and manage in a positive way so that, if the discussion is successful, we can offer to the world a better solution, if we are able to find it, to the terrible problem of narco-trafficking.”

This latest development reaffirms the determination of Latin American countries to the legalization debate and seems to indicate a willingness to accelerate the process in preparation for the Summit of the Americas on April 14-15. While the March 6 SICA meeting, undoubtedly hold off by Biden presence at the meeting, didn’t produce much more than an intent to open the debate, we can expect concrete proposals at the March 24th meeting. President Perez Molina announced that workgroups are actively preparing the details of his proposal.

There are good reasons to suspect that Colombian president Santos has been involved with the Perez Molina initiative from the very start, as alluded to by Perez Molina himself. The fact that President Santos is now coming out more openly is significant. Colombia is considered the best US ally in the War on Drugs, and is often touted as a success story and a model by the US anti-drug apparatus. The Colombian themselves have a more measured appreciation. While there has been undeniable progress since the peak of narco-violence in the 1990s, Santos himself acknowledges that the problem is contained at best. Colombia is still the main cocaine producer in the world and while the mega-cartels of the past may have been destroyed, it has opened the gates to the Mexican cartels and has resulted in an explosion of mini-cartels. The loss of its Colombian ally would be a major blow to the US anti-drug strategy, a blow that could prove fatal if Mexico was to join the legalization camp.

It is too early to say where the Perez Molina initiative will lead to, and what its true objectives may be. It may be a ploy to increase pressure on the US government to allocate more resources to the region, as has been argued. On the other hand, if any lesson can be drawn from the Colombian and Mexican experience, it is quite obvious that their war-like strategy came at a very high human cost for these countries. Central American countries have borne the brunt of narco-violence for the past three decades and as this violence keeps increasing, they seem to be genuinely ready to call it quits and to be looking for more realistic and workable alternatives. These already impoverished countries do not have the resources to deploy a US style prohibitionist system, and it would be folly for them to even attempt to. They are plagued by systemic corruption, youth unemployment, poor education and gang violence. Their gang problem itself is largely the result of the US policy of deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal records to their native countries. As the US prison system is a notorious training ground for criminals, where inmates are far more dangerous when they get out than they were when they got in, the US has been sending droves of hardened criminals south of their border, with catastrophic consequences for the receiving countries. This, added to the constant flow of weapons flooding the region because of the US impotence at regulating its own gun industry, is adding to the profound discontent in the region, which is tired to take the blame and pay the price for an issue that they rightly perceive as being imposed onto them.

In any case, it would be well advised for all the drug policy reform activists the world over to come resolutely in support of the Perez Molina initiative and to contribute as much as possible to the debate going on in Latin America.

I have argued for quite some time, most notably in my recently published “World War-D”, that Latin America is the only part of the world where drug policy reform can emerge. We might be witnessing this emergence and might be on the verge of a major paradigm shift in drug policy.

This, folks, is history in the making. Be part of it! To that effect, I invite you to sign and promote the Perez Molina petition:

Jeffrey Dhywood is an investigative writer, author of “World War D – The Case against prohibitionism, roadmap to controlled re-legalization” Follow on Facebook: or Twitter: @JDhywood

Jeffrey Dhywood
Investigative Writer

Is Latin America heading towards drug legalization?

Is Latin America heading towards drug legalization?

On Saturday February 11th, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina declared that following discussions with Colombian President Santos, he will present a proposal for the legalization of drugs in Central America at the Summit of the Americas, on April 14-15. Guatemalan Vice-President Roxana Baldetti toured Central America to discuss the proposal with regional leaders and garner support for it, starting with Panama on February 29th. Unsurprisingly, the move was greeted by a quick rebuke from the US government who hurriedly dispatched Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to the region on February 28th, one day ahead of Roxana Baldetti’s own tour. Baldetti still managed to gain the support of Costa Rica and Salvador. The US is now pulling out its heavy artillery, sending to the region VP Biden, a staunch supporter of the War on Drugs.

These latest developments didn’t come out of the blue but seem to be the latest step in a process started some time ago in Latin America. Let’s go over the timeline as it appears at this early stage:

Colombian president Santos has long declared that the current drug policies do not work and that he is in favor of decriminalization or outright legalization. He has been remarkably consistent in his position, both before and after his election. Santos is also quite aware that Colombia cannot legalize on its own. His predecessor and mentor, Alvarado Uribe, is widely credited for stabilizing his once precarious country, cracking down on drug trafficking and insurgencies and substantially improving the security situation with US help through the much touted Plan Colombia. The powerful Colombian cartels of the 1980s and 90s have been broken, but according to analysts, this has merely resulted in an explosion of mini-cartels; insecurity is still rampant in many parts of the country and is even on the rise in some areas, fueled in large parts by narco-trafficking. The flow of cocaine towards the US and EU, although in slight decline, remains remarkably steady.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon expanded a bloody and dirty war against the powerful Mexican drug cartels initiated by his predecessor Vicente Fox at the end of his mandate. It should be noted that Vicente Fox has since turned into one of the most vocal advocates of drug legalization. The ferocious and brutal Mexican drug war has claimed at least 50,000 victims since Calderon took office in 2006, and despite repeated blows, the two most powerful cartels still seem as powerful as ever. They control large parts of Mexico, having expanded from their traditional territories along the US border, Sinaloa, Durango and Michoacán, and now operate in most of the country; they also expanded to Guatemala, Honduras and Salvador.

Calderon’s determination seems to have been profoundly shaken by two recent events:

  • Calderon has consistently complained about the flow of US weapons fueling the drug violence in his country, lamenting lax US gun laws. He was especially incensed by the “fast and furious” debacle, were weapons were deliberately smuggled into Mexico with US government’s blessing.
  • After the August 25th, 2011 Monterey massacre that left 53 dead, a visibly shaken Calderon declared:  “If … they are resigned to consuming drugs, then they need to find alternatives … and establish clear points of access different from the border with Mexico, but this situation can’t keep going on like this.”

President Calderon has since repeatedly reiterated his call for alternatives, “including regulatory or market oriented options”. Mexico City hosted on February 14-16 an International forum about drugs (Drugs: A Balance to a Century of Their Prohibition) that was inaugurated by no other than President’s Calderon’s wife Margarita Zavala and attended by various members of the Mexican government, including Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Poiré. The forum concluded with an open call for legalization of all drugs.

Chronically unstable and impoverished Guatemala has seen a rapid degradation of its security situation over the past few years thanks to the invasion of the Mexican drug cartels from the North and the street gangs, especially the much-feared “Maras”, spreading from Salvador in the South. Guatemala has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, together with its neighbors Honduras and Salvador, all plagued by drug violence. President Molina was elected in November 2011 on a law-and-order platform, pledging to restore security to the country. He took office on January 14th, and 4 days later started calling for a regional strategy to decriminalize drugs in an interview on Mexican TV. In his February 11th radio interview, he declared: With all the money and technology received from the US, the problem has not diminished. There was talk of the success of Plan Colombia but all it did was to neutralize big cartels.He blamed drug cartels for the spiraling violence in Guatemala.

The first indication of the emergence of a regional coalition for drug legalization came on December 6th, 2011, during a meeting of Latin Americans and Caribbean leaders in what is known as the Tuxtla System for Dialogue. Not surprisingly, security was a major theme of the meeting, especially organized crime and narco-trafficking.

The Summit was attended by the presidents of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom; Honduras, Porfirio Lobo; Mexico, Felipe Calderón; Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; Panama, Ricardo Martinelli; Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández; and First Vice-President of Costa Rica, Alfio Piva and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Belize, Wilfred Elrington; Colombia, María Ángela Holguín; and El Salvador, Hugo Martínez. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera also attended as Special Guest.

They published a one-page joint declaration that expresses the growing frustration with the global war on drugs within the Central American region, and is the clearest regional call for drug policy reform to date. According to the declaration, “… what would be desirable, would be a significant reduction in the demand for illegal drugs. Nevertheless, if that is not possible, as recent experience demonstrates, the authorities of the consuming countries ought then to explore the possible alternatives to eliminate the exorbitant profits of the criminals, including regulatory or market oriented options to this end. Thus, the transit of substances that continue provoking high levels of crime and violence in Latin American and Caribbean nations will be avoided.”

The declaration repeats almost verbatim previous declarations made by President Calderon and clearly bears his mark. It was largely ignored by the US media, even though it represents a dramatic shift in attitude within the Central American and Caribbean region.

There are reasons to believe that this represents a lasting shift in Latin American approach to the intractable drug trafficking problem that has caused tremendous damage to the region over the past 3 decades. There is growing realization that the current prohibitionist approach is powerless to tackle the issue, as any apparent success on one front just displaces the problem. Methamphetamines displace cocaine. Guatemala replaces Mexico. A splinter of mini-cartels take over mega-cartels after their demise, in endless vicious circles. Violence is contained, at best, as seems to be currently the case in Colombia.

Latin American deeply resents that the US has long blamed producing and transiting countries while being unwilling and unable to curb demand at home. Adding fuel to the resentment is the constant flow of US weaponry and the extremely lax US gun laws that US lawmakers are too terrified to challenge. They also realize that they are bearing the brunt of the cost of a war that has been largely imposed on them, and were they somewhat feel as innocent bystanders, especially in transiting countries.

At the same time, Latin American countries are increasingly eager to assert their independence from their often over-bearing Northern neighbor. The current power vacuum in the US, where the government is practically held hostage by a fanatical political fringe, reinforces this desire for independence and creates favorable conditions.

More worrisome for the region, services and transactions are increasingly paid in kind, a move started by the cartels in the late 80s. The substances used as payment end up fueling an explosion of the local demand. As a result, the turf wars between gangs and cartels are increasingly fought over local territories rather than transit routes. The most vulnerable, children, youths and women are cannon fodder on the front line, used as lookouts, couriers, mules or even hired guns.

While the much-publicized “Report of The Global Commission on Drug Policy” in June 2011 certainly was a watershed moment for drug policy reform, the joint declaration of the Tuxtla System for Dialogue may be the seminal moment of legalization. It is probably no coincidence that a number of signers of the Global Commission Report are former head of states of several of the member countries of the Tuxtla System.

In my recently published book about the war on drugs, “World War-D: – The Case against prohibitionism, roadmap to controlled re-legalization”, I concluded that Latin America was the most likely place for the emergence of a coalition of countries pushing for legalization and control of all drugs. The December 6th Tuxtla declaration may be the first step towards the creation of such a coalition.

Global drug policy reform may very well be on its way. We cannot afford to waste the opportunity of the 34 countries of the Americas debating alternatives to the catastrophic War on Drugs on April 14 & 15. We need to mobilize world public opinion behind drug policy reform. This is why I created a petition to US President Obama, Guatemala President Otto Perez Molina, and Vice-President Roxana Baldetti, Mexico President Calderon, Colombia President Santos and presidents of Panama, Costa Rica, Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The petition can be found at:

Jeffrey Dhywood is an investigative writer, author of “World War D – The Case against prohibitionism, roadmap to controlled re-legalization” Follow on Facebook: or Twitter: @JDhywood

Guatemala Vice President will seek Support for drug legalization in Central America

Guatemala Vice President will seek Support to discuss drug legalization in Central America

Starting next week the Vice-President, Roxana Baldetti, will begin a tour of Central America to present the proposal on drug “depenalization” (generally translated as legalization but probably decriminalization?) made by the Government of Guatemala and to promote a dialogue in the region. This will be in addition to the talks that President Otto Pérez Molina will have with his homologues in Mexico and Colombia.

The Vice-president will be accompanied by Fernando Carrera, secretary of economic planning and vice-minister of external relations, to define who will visit the countries of the Isthmus, starting on Monday, to promote a discussion about drug legalization, a topic that divide Latin America. Panama will be the first country visited, according to the Vice-President.

Pérez Molina hopes that the bilateral meetings will allow wide agreement on the proposal, that will be then jointly presented by the Central American nations to the Summit of the Americas, scheduled on April 14 and 15 in Cartagena, Colombia.

The joint proposal  will have for main objective to promote the dialogue and debate of all heads of state of the Americas and of the world, to look for alternatives to stop the conflict between rival narco-trafficking groups and the deaths it generates.

Intense lobbying

In addition, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Harold Caballeros, discussed the proposal with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his visit to Washington, during which he reaffirmed Guatemala’s commitment to the fight against narco-trafficking.

Pérez Molina informed that Clinton recognized the importance of the topic, and assured that it will be considered by the US authorities to elaborate a declaration, however the US embassy in Guatemala already expressed its opposition to the initiative.

The President said that he had a phone conversation with President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, who wishes to study the proposal and promised to nominate someone to meet with the Guatemalan authorities and study the guidelines in details.

In the next few days, the president will seek the support of Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Felipe Calderón of México for the submission of a strengthened proposal.

Conflicting views

US ambassador Arnold Chacón reiterated that his country does not share the proposal, but he will remain pending dialogs by the authorities without getting involved.

The tour could attract support, consensus and reservations, affirmed David Martínez Amador, Professor specialist in Organized Crime, where the members of the Northern Triangle, El Salvador and Honduras, could be responsible for providing the approval to the proposal.

There could be some reserve in Costa Rica due to its close relationship to the United States, as well as Nicaragua[1] where the crime situation doesn’t seem to indicate a relation with narco-trafficking.  One of the next steps, according to Amador, would be a clear and timely presentation of the proposal, to determine what kind of drugs should be legalized.


[1] The government of President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua is widely suspected to work directly with the drug cartels, which is probably why narco-violence is inexistent in Nicaragua. Molina has all reason to suspect that he will oppose drug legalization.

Guatemalan president Pérez Molina to propose drugs legalization in Central America at next meeting of regional leaders

Guatemalan president Pérez Molina announced today Saturday February 11, 2012 that he will propose drugs legalization in Central America, including legalization of transport of drugs in the upcoming meeting of regional leaders.

Pérez Molina said the war on drugs and all the money and technology received from the US has not diminished drug trafficking in the area. “Con toda la tecnología y los recursos y millones de dólares que dio Estados Unidos el problema no ha disminuido. Se habló del éxito del Plan Colombia pero lo único que hicieron los grandes carteles fue neutralizarlo”.

Drug policy reform may be on its way. Public support could make a huge difference. Now is the time to support the Calderon-Santos initiative.