Pubdate: Sat, 16 Mar 2013
Source: Cullman Times, The (AL)
Copyright: 2013 The Cullman Times
Author: David Sirota
Page: 6A


The notion of alcohol consumers piously demanding that others stop
using pot probably makes you think of the beer-swilling World War II
generation berating weed-smoking hippies during the 1960s. Now, thanks
to the United Nations, that caricature gets an update -- and the
hypocrisy is at once amusing and depressing.

You may have read the headline-grabbing news that in advance of its
conference on drug policy this week, the U.N. issued a report urging
the United States government to block Colorado and Washington state
from moving forward with voter-approved laws that allow adult citizens
to use marijuana as a less harmful alternative to alcohol. What you
may not have heard is that on the very same day the U.N. released that
report, U.S. ambassador Joseph Torsella slammed his U.N. colleagues
for drinking too much on the job. Apparently, binging at the U.N. is
so commonplace and excessive that it is hindering the organization
from conducting its most basic work.

As hypocrisy humor goes, this is pretty funny. An international body
immersed in one drug (alcohol) yet telling governments to outlaw an
objectively less harmful drug (marijuana) is biting comedy. It
hilariously exemplifies the double standards and contradictions that
still define many global leaders' views of drugs.

Yet before you laugh too hard, remember that it is actually a tragedy
for members of the U.N. to be simultaneously drinking too much alcohol
and too much anti-pot Kool-Aid. It is a tragedy because the blatant
hypocrisy saps the organization's credibility on the drug issue at a
time when the world needs it to be supporting the international
political momentum generated by Colorado and Washington state.

That reform momentum is now building as lawmakers in Mexico, Uruguay
and Chile are citing the states' votes as reason for their nations to
consider legislation to legalize marijuana. Likewise, according to the
Associated Press, presidents of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa
Rica called "for the Organization of American States to study the
impact of the Colorado and Washington votes and said the United
Nations' General Assembly should hold a special session" to debate the
continued prohibition of marijuana.

Their rationale is simple: Having seen their nations torn apart by the
militarized fight against the drug cartels that rely on prohibition
and its attendant black market, Latin American leaders see the
Colorado and Washington victories as a way to finally start
de-escalating the blood-soaked war on marijuana.

"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?'" one Mexican lawmaker told Time magazine in
describing a bill he is pushing that is modeled off the Washington
State measure.

The flip side, of course, is that legalization could deal a serious
blow to the cartels. That's because, according to Mexico's Institute
for Competitiveness, up to a third of the cartels' revenues come from
the black-market marijuana trade -- a trade that would be curtailed if
cannabis was legalized and brought into the regulated economy.
Meanwhile, if more American states follow Colorado and Washington, the
cartels could "lose 24 percent of their gross export revenues," says
Alejandro Hope, a former top intelligence official in Mexico.

Put it all together -- thousands dead in a failed drug war, a massive
black-market for marijuana and science that says pot is safer than
alcohol -- and the U.N. should be using its pivotal position to help
the world move away from destructive prohibitionist policies and
toward legalization and strict regulation.

In order for it to play such a constructive role, though, the U.N.
clearly needs to sober up -- both literally and politically.
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