Pubdate: Sun, 09 Nov 2014
Source: Stabroek News (Guyana)
Copyright: 2014 The Miami Herald
Author: Andres Oppenheimer, The Miami Herald
Page: 20


Here's the biggest irony of Tuesday's mid-term elections: the US 
government will continue demanding that Mexico, Colombia and other 
countries fight the marijuana trade as part of its "war on drugs," 
while Washington voters have just approved making pot legal in the US capital.

Under an initiative passed by DC voters in Tuesday's elections, 
residents aged over 21 will be able to possess two ounces of 
marijuana and grow up to six plants for recreational consumption 
outside federal lands, pending congressional approval of the measure.

Meanwhile, voters in Oregon and Alaska on Tuesday approved much 
stronger marijuana legalization measures. Much like Colorado and 
Washington state did two years ago, Oregon and Alaska passed ballot 
measures that will create a legal market for recreational marijuana.

Florida was the only state in which a marijuana amendment was 
defeated, but only because it received 58 per cent of the vote, 
rather than the 60 per cent required under state law. Many Florida 
voters rejected the measure, which proposed allowing medical 
marijuana, arguing that the proposal was too vaguely written and 
could have allowed anybody to consume pot by claiming to have 
something as simple as a headache.

But the symbolism of the nation's capital's residents approving 
recreational use of cannabis - and the fact that 54 per cent of 
Americans support marijuana legalization, according to a recent Pew 
Center poll - will pose a major foreign policy challenge for the 
Obama administration, and for the Republicans who will control both 
houses of Congress.

How will US officials demand with a straight face that Latin American 
countries sacrifice their law enforcement agents to fight marijuana, 
when people in the US may soon be smoking the drug a few steps away 
from the White House, many Latin American officials are already asking.

Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the 34- country 
Organization of American States, told me Wednesday that the DC 
marijuana vote "will speed up the process of debate over marijuana 
legalization in Latin America."

He added that for countries that are being asked by the United States 
to eradicate pot, such as Mexico and Colombia, "the logical question 
will be whether fighting marijuana makes sense at a time when five US 
states already have legalized recreational marijuana, and more than 
20 others have approved some form of medical marijuana."

Uruguay has recently become the world's first country to legalize not 
only consumption but also government production and sale of pot, 
while Guatemala, Colombia and several others have vowed to consider 
decriminalization or a serious debate about legalization. Several 
former presidents, including Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox of 
Mexico, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil and Cesar Gaviria of 
Colombia, have been actively campaigning for marijuana decriminalization.

"The symbolic importance of Tuesday's vote is hard to overstate, 
because Washington, DC, is not only the capital of the United States, 
but has been the capital of the global war on drugs," says John 
Walsh, a pro-cannabis legalization expert with the Washington Office 
for Latin America think tank. "Now, one of the pillars of that drug 
war is gone."

Walsh added that he does not expect the upcoming Republican- 
controlled Congress to block the pro-legalization trend. "Whether 
it's because of support for legalization or because of support for 
states' rights, there is support in both parties to move ahead with 
legalization," he said.

I would not like to be in the shoes of the White House anti-drug 
czar, or of any other US official in charge of asking other countries 
to cooperate in US marijuana eradication or interdiction programmes. 
Regardless of what you think about marijuana legalization - I'm for 
it, provided it goes hand-in-hand with public campaigns to warn 
people of pot's damaging effects, and that the savings from 
anti-marijuana programmes be used for prevention and treatment of 
harder drugs - US officials will have a hard time justifying current 
US anti-pot programmes.

Until recently, they could argue that Colorado and Washington state 
were isolated experiments. After Tuesday's vote to legalize pot in 
the US capital, that argument will no longer fly. They should try to 
change the four-decade-old US "war on drugs," take marijuana out of 
it, and focus their resources on fighting harder drugs.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom