Reimagining Drug Policy in the Americas

NACLA Report on the Americas
Summer 2014

nacla-drugs-americasLatin America is now at the vanguard of international efforts to promote drug policy reform: Bolivia has rewritten its constitution to recognize the right to use the coca leaf for traditional and legal purposes, Uruguay has become the first nation in the world to adopt a legal, regulated Cannabis market, and Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador are openly critiquing the prevailing international drug control paradigm at the UN. And now with the United States itself relaxing its marijuana laws state by state, the U.S. prohibitionist drug war strategies are losing credibility in the region.

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Linda Farthing
The colossal failure of militarized drug control promoted for decades by the United States is finally being recognized.

A Turning Point for Drug Policy
Coletta Youngers
At the levels of governance and civil society, Latin America has emerged as a world leader in the drug reform movement—while Washington suffers from a credibility problem.

A Painful Withdrawal: America's Addiction to Punishment
Rodrigo Uprimny and Diana Esther Guzmán
Drug addiction creates the need to consume more and more drugs, which have less and less effect. Something similar has happened with drug policy.

Interview with Former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Rebeca Lerer
Ordinary people and politicians alike are often wary of openly discussing drugs. But over the past three years, debates around drug policy have gone mainstream in Latin America.

Brazil's Militarized Crackdown on Drugs
Robert Gay
Brazil is now a major transshipment point for cocaine, and the federal government is mobilizing military forces in the favelas and on the border. As Brazil is compared with its powerful North American neighbor, some say it’s too little, too late.

An Interview with Former Trafficker Bruno
Robert Gay
On the changing drug culture of his Rio favela since the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) were introduced.

Pioneering Cannabis Regulation in Uruguay
Hannah Hetzer and John Walsh
In 2013, Uruguay was the first nation in the world to legalize marijuana—not through ballot initiatives, but through deliberations within the national legislature.

Compassionate Cannabis
Linda Farthing
Why marijuana should cost as much as tomatoes, not gold, and how one medical cannabis dispensary occupies a legal grey area to make it happen.

How the Drug Trade Criminalizes Women Disproportionately
Corina Giacomello
Poor women across Latin America are triply discriminated against: within the drug trade, within the legal system, and within prison walls.

Interview with Former Trafficker Rosa Julia Leyva
Corina Giacomello
Rosa Julia Leyva Martínez spent 12 years in prison for transporting a few packets of heroin. Now she’s bringing a message of hope to thousands.

The Criminalization of African American Males
Nicole Fabricant
In the 1980s, Neill Franklin went undercover to arrest both organized crime leaders and small-scale dealers. He now advocates drug legalization and job growth to reduce drug-related violence.

Drug Law Reform in Mexico
Catalina Pérez Correa
To stymie the drug trade, Mexico needs to address criminal violence rather than detaining and processing petty criminals.

Interview with Mother-Activist Teresa Carmona
Zara Snapp
On living in fear in Mexico and how the drug victims’ movement is fighting back.

Peruvian Cocaine and the Boomerang of History
Paul Gootenberg
Washington’s most compliant Andean ally, Peru — not Colombia — is now the world’s leading source for cocaine on the global market.

Ecuador's Pardon Laws
Coletta Youngers
In Ecuador, reducing sentences and releasing prisoners has diminished prison overcrowding and allowed for the reintegration of poor Ecuadorans into society.

To the Beat of a Different Drum: Bolivia's Community Coca Control
Linda Farthing and Kathryn Ledebur
Bolivians are protecting their traditions and livelihood—and stopping drug trafficking simultaneously.

Challenging Myths About Chapare Coca Paste Production
Thomas Grisaffi
The media casts coca growers in the Chapare region as 'nouveau riche' drug trafficking peasants, but most drug workers are young men without land or hope of decent jobs, not unionized coca growers.

Poetry: Noa Noa
Bocafloja’s poetry explores the changing nature of conceptions of death in Mexico and the effect of living in a permanent state of terror as a consequence of repressive drug policies.

Photo Essay: Coca Sí, Cocaína No
Bear Guerra
In his portraits of coca farming communities in Bolivia’s Yungas region, Bear Guerra exposes the human impact of both the U.S. war on drugs and Bolivian President Morales’ drug policy innovations.

The U.S. Re-militarization of Central America and Mexico
Alexander Main
The Obama administration has expanded its financing of Mexican and Central American military forces—many of whom committed the mass killing and torture of political opponents and indigenous communities only two decades prior.

Reforming the Global Drug-Control System: The Stakes for Washington
Martin Jelsma
The question today is no longer whether there is a need to reassess and modernize the UN drug-control system, but rather when and how to do it.