Pubdate: Mon, 18 Mar 2013
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2013 Creators Syndicate
Author: David Sirota


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 last 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, the 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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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom