President: Prop 19 Could Change Colombia’s Drug Policy

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos: “Tell me if there is a way to explain to a Colombian peasant that if he produces marijuana we are going to put him in jail… [while]the same product is legal [in California]”

‚ÄčColombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said that if Proposition 19 passes next week in California, legalizing marijuana in the state, it could force his country to rethink its drug policies.

“Tell me if there is a way to explain to a Colombian peasant that if he produces marijuana we are going to put him in jail… [while]the same product is legal [in California],” President Santos said, reports All Headline News. “That’s going to produce a comprehensive discussion on the approach we have taken on the fight against drug trafficking.”
Just a couple of months ago, Santos endorsed the call for a debate on drug legalization made by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, reports Juan Carlos Hidalgo at Cato @ Liberty. However, Santos also said he believes legalization would increase consumption of drugs, despite the fact that it hasn’t happened in countries with liberal drug policies such as Portugal.
Santos brought up the subject again on Tuesday at a Latin American presidential summit in Cartagena, Colombia. “If we don’t act in a consistent way on this issue, if all we are doing is to send our fellow citizens to jail while in other latitudes the market is being legalized, then we have to ask ourselves: Isn’t it time to review the global strategy against drugs?” he asked.

The Colombian president’s statements have been backed by his Minister of Foreign Relations, who told El Tiempo, the country’s top newspaper, that Colombia’s new seat on the United Nations Security Council could be “a good place” to start a “worldwide discussion” on the way the War On Drugs is being conducted.
“It’s ironic — and gratifying — that the president of Washington’s closest ally in Latin America is the leading voice in the region questioning the wisdom of the war on drugs,” wrote Hildalgo at Cato. But it shouldn’t be a surprise, according to Hidalgo.
Back in 1998, Santos, then president of Fundacion Buen Gobierno (Foundation for Good Government), signed a public letter to then Secretary General of the U.N. Kofi Annan denouncing the War On Drugs as a “failed and futile” experiment, and calling for drug policies to be based on “common sense, science, public health and human rights.”
Santos’s statements show that far beyond California’s borders, the repercussions of Prop 19 in Latin America and across the world could be very significant.
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