Dennie Quill, Columnist
When I wrote last week's column about the growing commercial importance of marijuana in America, I sort of anticipated that Oregon, Colorado and Washington would have voted to legalise recreational use by adults. The results are in: Indeed, Colorado and Washington voted 'yes'.
So could this vote signal a turning point in America's 40-year war on drugs? At least four leaders of ganja-producing countries in the region believe it definitely will.
The leaders of Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Costa Rica held a press conference in Mexico City on Monday in reaction to the yes vote in Colorado and Washington. They want the Organisation of American States (OAS) to consider the implication of the vote, and also called on the UN General Assembly to convene a special session on drug prohibition by 2015.
Note, please, that Belize is a CARICOM nation, and while it has stepped up to the microphone with friends in the region, its sister nations have kept very quiet on these developments in the United States.
Then United States President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971, spending billions on the effort and creating new elite narcotics agencies to carry on the fight. But despite this, five years later, then Governor Jimmy Carter campaigned for the presidency on a platform of decriminalising marijuana and easing criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Of course, Carter won the election in 1976 and took office in January 1977.
CONFLICTED ON DRUG USE
America has been conflicted on the question of drug use for a very long time. Leaders of Latin America have had to deal with the backlash on the drug trade. Their efforts to eliminate production and cripple traffickers have resulted in thousands of deaths, yet there seems to be no letting up on demand or production. The Global Commission of Drug Policy reported that between 1998 and 2008, worldwide use of marijuana rose by nine per cent.
Among themselves, leaders of the region have clamoured for new ways of dealing with the drug trade. They have articulated the view that while the US war on drugs has called for extraordinary efforts on the region's part to curtail the production and distribution of marijuana and other drugs, there were no discernible efforts to numb demand in the US.
And in April, they shared those views with President Barrack Obama at a regional anti-drug summit in Mexico as they called on world governments to seek new strategies. However, the Obama administration is holding steadfast in its opposition to the legalisation of marijuana and other drugs.
So where will the adults in Colorado and Washington get their weed? And how can they wage war on ganja-producing nations when they are becoming producers themselves? It seems reasonable to predict that local farmers will be producing the weed in those states in order to supply the market which is expected to soar.
People are already talking about moving to these states. Let's not forget that 17 States of the US already authorise the use of medical marijuana. It seems like a whole lot of marijuana will be planted in the US and the Government will earn enormous taxes from these sales.
REGION TAKING NOTE
Many regional governments appear to have been taking note of these developments and are reacting with changes of their own. For example, the government of Guatemala has proposed decriminalising certain drugs. Meanwhile, the Parliament of Uruguay is poised to vote on a bill to legalise the cultivation and distribution of marijuana by the State.
Proponents of this bold bill estimate that the marijuana market in Uruguay is worth US$40 million and is currently being supplied by Paraguay. They argue that state monopoly will combat drug-related crime, decrease health risk to users, and counter ineffective US anti-drugs policy. It will most certainly boost the Government's earnings.
This is my second article on the implications of the ganja use in America, and so far our politicians have remained silent. This 2012 vote legalising recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, in fact, highlights the powerful economic force that legal drugs will become for countries like America.
In a recent Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans agree that marijuana should be legalised and taxed like alcohol and tobacco.
Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.