The United States will not react to concepts such as “depenalization, decriminalization, or harm reduction” of drugs, rather, to concrete and detailed proposals, William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said on Wednesday.
“We will not react to concepts, we will react to concrete and detailed proposals,” Brownfield told AFP, referring to the discussion sparked by the proposal of the president of Guatemala, Otto Perez, of discussing legalization of drugs.
The American official participated in a meeting behind closed doors on innovative initiatives to help Latin American countries reduce the levels of violence derived from the fight against drug trafficking, in the framework of the World Economic Forum on Latin America, celebrated in Puerta Vallarta, on the Mexican Pacific coast.
Brownfield said that his government is very satisfied with the decision of the Summit of the Americas, which took place in Colombia last week, to request the Organization of American States (OAS) to elaborate a diagnosis on the situation of the fight against drug trafficking in the region.
“We are completely happy” with the petition sent to the OAS to “organize an effort to reveal where the 34 governments of the hemisphere are and this moment with our policies, our strategies, and our laws,” he said.
The diplomat considers that this will be a good starting point with a “database” to study.
The president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, proposed at the Summit of the Americas to open a debate without prejudice or dogma on the alternatives to confront drug trafficking.
The fight against drug trafficking has cost tens of thousands of deaths in Latin America, not only from the violence of repression against cartels and the fight amongst them, but also from the consumption of cocaine that it has unleashed in the cities.
The discussion has extended to the US public opinion, where 50% of the population agree with legalization of marijuana, according to surveys done by that county.
“Even President Obama is prepared for the discussion (but) unfortunately the US bureaucracy is very poorly prepared” to face this debate, said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance.
The specialist indicated that the US Drug Enforcement Agency and other public agencies do not “have a strategy, do not seriously consider” other types of proposals because they have been applying the same measures to combat drug trafficking for the past 45 years.
The intention of any official to explore other options affects his or her professional career, therefore, they “remain blind” he said.
Nadelmann made some suggestions at the forum that Brownfield was at, including the commercialization of marijuana like alcohol, with regulated access and education for youth.
The legalization of cocaine and heroin will be politically impossible for a long time but with the legalization of marijuana the rates of crime, violence, arrest, and black markets could reduce, he argued.
Given this, Brownfield raised questions such as whether this legalization “is for the whole world, for children age six or seven years, as of 16 years, or over 21 years? Who is responsible for the sale of marijuana? Without license or with license? Who is responsible for deciding on the licenses?”