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With Pot Legal in Two US States, Latin American Leaders Call for Review of International Drug Policy

Leaders form Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Belize are wondering what marijuana legalization in WA and CO means for the region.
 
 
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The election that legalized recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado looks to be a historic moment in American democracy. It has already been widely regarded as the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States, but recent developments suggest legal weed's importance could stretch beyond American policy to international significance. Today, Latin American leaders of four nations called for a review of international drug policies.

"It has become necessary to analyze in depth the implications for public policy and health in our nations emerging from the state and local moves to allow the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana in some countries of our continent," Mexican President Felipe Calderon said this afternoon after meeting with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize.

The US is currently backing a bloody war in Mexico, where marijuana is estimated to be a significant, if not majority, percentage of cartel profits. Since Calderon declared war on the cartels in 2006, more than 60,000 Mexicans, many of them innocents, have died in the carnage. Drug war violence has devastated much of Latin America, and prompted to many leaders to speak out in support of reform. Now, it seems, legalization in WA and CO will lend support to international voices for drug war alternatives.

As Reuters.com reported this week:

Some leaders, such as Guatemalan President Otto Perez, have openly proposed legalizing or "decriminalizing" certain drugs. Others have pushed for less dramatic changes such as legalizing only marijuana or, like Mexico's Felipe Calderon, have spoken in vague terms of a "less prohibitionist" approach.

Uruguay has gone furthest, proposing a bill this year that would legalize marijuana and have the state distribute it. That move was regarded as too extreme by many in the region, although this week's decision by voters in Washington and Colorado states to legalize marijuana for recreational use showed that, even in the United States, the status quo is changing fast.

These shifts in policy may give progressives in the US some needed leeway to change policy.

Moises Naim, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, told NewsMax.com

"The taboo is broken," adding that "2012 will go down as the year when Latin American governments became assertive and began making changes of their own accord."

Marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado may very well provide the evidence of drug war failure and popular opinion necessary for the United States to recognize Latin America's increasing calls for change.

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne