Four Marijuana Moments

MEXICO CITY – Latin America and the United States have experienced what one could call a series of “marijuana moments” over the past few weeks. Given growing support for ending the senseless and bloody decades-long “war on drugs,” these signs of progress toward decriminalization and legalization should not pass unremarked.

The first moment took place during the Organization of American States’ annual General Assembly, held this year in Antigua, Guatemala, at the beginning of June. The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, presented a report entitled “The Drug Problem in the Americas,” which had been requested by the region’s heads of state when they met at last year’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

The report was drawn up by experts from almost all OAS member states, and was divided into two parts: an excellent analytical section, and a brief and somewhat exasperating chapter devoted to future scenarios. The document itself represents a watershed, because it provides the data needed for a scientific and empirical discussion of an issue that is too often debated in ideological terms.

The report breaks down the issue in a compelling way: by countries (producers, transit states, consumers, or all of these); by substances (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and synthetic drugs); by links among these illicit substances; and by the consequences of consumption, production, or trade of each drug for societies, institutions, and international relations. The report also states explicitly that decriminalization of marijuana consumption is a legitimate, reasonable, and feasible option, though it does not recommend such a policy. This is only an initial step, but it is an enormous one.