The recent 2012 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena opened up positive avenues for progress in drug policy reform. President Santos’s welcome call for the establishment of an expert taskforce to assess how current drug control regimes can be improved to create more effective, cheaper alternatives is fully in line with the Beckley Foundation’s work to develop and promote evidence-based policies. Although leaders in the region disagree about what form these changes should take, it is noteworthy that consensus was at least found on the need to improve the current approach.
Shortly before to the Summit, President Obama commented that allowing the drug trade to ‘operate legally without any constraint could be just as corrupting, if not more corrupting than the status quo’. However, the great majority of policy reformers fully acknowledge that an unregulated market would be extremely damaging, pushing instead for strong regulation, tailored to specific substances and local contexts, in order to limit harms suffered in both consumer and producer/transit countries. We hope that the new taskforce will generate greater awareness among the public and policy-makers of the wide range of options available, countering the common misinterpretation that legalising = a free market without constraints. Indeed the present situation of an illegal market is a completely unregulated market.
Director Amanda Feilding is currently meeting with key figures in Latin American drug policy, including Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, to discuss possible approaches to policy improvement. The Beckley Foundation aims to support the reformist momentum in the region by establishing a regional think tank of experts. The Beckley Foundation public letter calling for an end to the War on Drugs, signed by seven former presidents including Jimmy Carter and twelve Nobel Prize winners, among many other distinguished global figures, has been published in two Guatemalan newspapers and read out on the Guatemalan television news. Amanda has also been interviewed in the leading press and television stations.
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