Monday, February 16, 2009

Report Calls for End to Drug War, Obama Moves Toward Reform


The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy issued a report today that marks a turning point in drug policy in the hemisphere. Following a year's work, the report concludes that the "war on drugs" is a failure and recommends a "paradigm shift" centered on public health, reducing consumption and focusing resources on organized crime.

It's well worth it to read the full statement of the commission, "Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift." Here's a brief run-down.

Brief run-down ensues...

The Commission's message coming at this time reflects the hope that the Obama administration will have a more open attitude toward re-evaluating the failed policies.

That hope is not unfounded. It's true that the new administration had a well-publicized false starts on drug policy reform, but these seem to reflect more the built-in inertia of Washington than its own policies. Earlier this month, the U.S. delegation reportedly blocked harm reduction measures at the talks toward a new UN strategy in Vienna. Then, a series of DEA raids on medical marijuana providers in California raised questions about Obama's commitment to respect state laws on the matter.

Those fears have been somewhat allayed over the past few days. On the international front, Obama broke publicly from the "zero-tolerance" line of the Bush administration and announced support for needle exchange, although a spokesperons still called harm reduction "ambiguous".

At home, Obama received criticism for the contradiction between campaign promises and a reality that looked a lot like no change regarding federal government repression of medical marijuana. White House spokesperson Nick Shapiro stated that the raids would not continue.

Now the Seattle press is speculating that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, will be appointed national drug czar. This would be another important sign of a changing tide. Kerlikowske worked in law enforcement in Washington state, a state that permits medical marijuana use and in Seattle, a city that approved a measure to give marijuana "lowest enforcement priority". Drug policy reform groups have celebrated his probable nomination.

I got a sneakin' hunch the Repug reaction to the commission's report will be something along the lines of "What do a buncha beaners know anyway?"

I think President Obama is going to have a tough row to hoe if he goes against the failed War On Some Drugs. There are a lot of people making out like bandits on our wasted money because of it, and they have a powerful lobby to keep it going and to hell with the peasants whose lives are being unnecessarily ruined by it. I sure hope he tries.

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