WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
20 Feb 2015 | Commentary

Can Washington Still Dictate Drug Policy in the Americas?

By Coletta A. Youngers and Adam Schaffer

This article was originally published by the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)

Washington has succeeded in creating an entrenched drug-war bureaucracy across Latin America. But the momentum in favor of reform is building in unexpected places.

For decades, the U.S. government has imposed its repressive drug-control policies across Latin America and the Caribbean, using diplomatic, political, and economic pressure as needed. Long-simmering resentment to this approach, combined with waning U.S. political influence, has led to a dramatic turning of the tide: Latin American countries are now driving an unprecedented international drug policy debate.

A disconnect between U.S. drug policies at home and abroad has also played a role in motivating the opposition to U.S.-dictated drug policies. While this disconnect is most visible in state-led initiatives to create legal, regulated cannabis markets (now approved in four states and the District of Columbia), the Obama administration has also undertaken two significant domestic initiatives: It has placed greater priority on a public health approach, and has dramatically expanded access to drug treatment through the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps more significantly, Attorney General Eric Holder has spoken out forcefully on the need to rethink harsh sentencing policies that have filled U.S. jails with low-level, non-violent drug offenders and the enormous cost paid by those individuals, their families, and communities.

To continue reading the article at NACLA, please click here.