Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Read James Saft's Column on Drug Legalisation and Taxes -- A Few Days Ago Three Latin Presidents Lashed Out at U.S. War Against Drugs

Brazil's Cardoso (left) and Colombia's Gaviria. Both have admitted their past
with maconha, or bareta, as pot is known in their respective countries.
Now they want it legalised. They only dared to say this after they left office.
The U.S. war on drugs, apart from intimidating great minds, has only
sparked chaos and more instability in Latin America.

Here is James Saft's Reuters column for this week. Click here for link to the story. Saft says he half-jokes when he says one decent exit to resolving U.S. fiscal woes would be legalising marihuana and other drugs, taxing trade and saving on interdiction, domestic law enforcement and the prison and court system.

Recently, three former Latin America presidents (Colombia's Cesar Gaviria, Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo and Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso) lashed out at the results of the U.S. war on drugs in an article originally published by the WSJ. Part of the group of people who signed the article too includes Colombian politician and former presidential candidate Antanas Mockus -- the architect of the revival of Bogotá in the late 1990s. Click here for the link to a Tribuna Latina story (in Spanish.) The ex-presidents argued in the WSJ article that the U.S.-sponsored (or -imposed, maybe?) policies based on manual and chemical crop eradication, interdiction and criminalisation of consumers had not been effective, but have instead contributed to violence, political and judicial corruption and the flourishing of mafias linked to drug-trafficking. The three musketeers fell short of recommending across-the-board decriminalisation and legalisation, but advised treating addicts as patients of the public-health services rather than criminals, focusing on the health effects of cannabis, and mounting educational campaigns to partly mend the mistakes of the ongoing policy framework.

Speaking from the other shore, the consumer countries' point of view, Saft asserts: ''Drug legalisation, just like for alcohol, is essentially a moral and political decision about which reasonable people can disagree. It’s also, to put it mildly, not very likely.´´ But he stresses that the war on drugs costs billions of dollars, entices violence and crime, sends to prisons thousands of people that cost the state billions of dollars a year, but more importantly and ''seemingly never get us much closer to victory.´´ He finishes his idea with a fine touch: ''The waste and misery involved must make it rival the sub-prime bubble as a misallocation of resources.´´

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