Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jul 2014
Source: Cape Times (South Africa)
Page: 8
Copyright: 2014 Cape Times
Note: Editorial from the Guardian, London


THE WAR on drugs has been a losing fight for 40 years. The response to
unending failure has always been to demand more law enforcement and
more prison cells. It is unclear why the mood should be changing just
now. It isn't that consumers have suddenly got too numerous to ignore:
rates of cannabis use, which had, throughout the late 20th century,
seemed to be on an interminable upward trajectory, are now stable or
even declining.

But then the long century of criminalisation never had any more to do
with evidence than America's disastrous interwar experiment with
prohibiting the undoubtedly-dangerous demon drink. Then, as now, the
practicalities of harm-reduction and the principle of not persecuting
citizens who harm no one but themselves, point to legalisation.

So it is be welcomed that the last year or so has seen Uruguay
instigate a heavily regulated cannabis trade, while Colorado and
Washington state have licensed all personal use, with the first stores
officially permitted to peddle  the latter opening their doors this
month. Elsewhere in the US, the slow tide of tolerance for medical
marijuana, which began in California in 1996, continues to spread.

The mismatch between Washington DC's unreformed rules and the law as
it is actually observed casts a thick fug of confusion over the
position. Barack Obama, who  like David Cameron  used drugs in his
youth, surely knows that he would not have got where he is today if he
had ever been caught and had ended up in jail. He is on the record as
saying the war on drugs has been "an utter failure", and has more
recently made positive noises about allowing the Colorado and
Washington experiments to run their course.

Thickening the haze is the international position. America led the
world to sign up to successive UN protocols and conventions, which
reforming countries like Uruguay now find themselves running up
against. It seems absurd when states within the US itself are
conducting similar legal experiments. Neither federal laws nor UN
conventions of the old prohibitionist order can stand in logic any
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D