Jacob Sullum

In recent years, that sentiment has been expressed by a growing number of Latin American leaders, beginning with Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in 2008. The following year, a commission convened by three former Latin American presidents -- Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico -- concluded that "prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the expected results."

Furthermore, Cardoso, et al. observed, the war on drugs has been accompanied by "a rise in organized crime," "a growth in unacceptable levels of drug-related violence," "the criminalization of politics and the politicization of crime," and "the corruption of public servants." They called for a "paradigm shift," including marijuana decriminalization. Since then, we have heard similar talk from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica.

Is America listening? At last April's Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, President Barack Obama, who as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2004 called the war on drugs "an utter failure," said "it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation" about whether the drug laws "are doing more harm than good in certain places." But he immediately added that "legalization is not the answer." In other words, even if prohibition does more harm than good, Obama is determined to stick with it.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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