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Will Obama or Romney Address Worldwide Debate on Failed Drug War?

Posted: 10/22/2012 2:05 pm

Tonight's third and final presidential debate will focus on foreign policy.

One glaring omission from the first two debates is America's disastrous war on drugs. Neither candidate has addressed American's longest war -- which has flushed well over $1 trillion taxpayer dollars down the drain, incarcerated millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans, and led to massive crime, violence and corruption in almost every corner of the world.

Tonight's focus on foreign policy is a perfect opportunity to acknowledge and join the debate raging in Latin America, where several current presidents are finally calling for an honest and open debate about how to end the drug war's decades-long bloodbath in their countries.

It is remarkable to see the differences between the U.S. and Latin America. While the U.S. officials keep their heads in the sand, the presidents of Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica and other countries have all spoken passionately this year against the failed drug war and the urgent need for alternatives, including legalizing marijuana and possibly other drugs. The debate reached a new climax at the Summit of Americas in Colombia in April, when opposition to the drug war dominated Latin American media coverage and President Obama was forced to oblige that legalization is a legitimate topic for debate.

The debate has not slowed down since the Summit of the Americas. Last month at UN General Assembly, Presidents of Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico all spoke in favor alternatives to drug war and the president of Guatemala went as far as to propose legally regulating all drugs.

And we are moving from debate to implementation. Uruguay has gone from if to how. President Mujica has proposed to not just legally regulate marijuana, but to have the state produce and sell it. They are now flying down international experts to consider the range of opitions.

It is not just presidents and elites calling for alternatives to prohibition - people are taking it to the streets. Poet Javier Silicia made international news when he led a caravan through the U.S. with 100 people from Mexico who have loved lost ones in the prohibition-related violence that has taken 60,000 lives since President Calderon initiated his "surge" against the cartels in 2006. The caravan called for an end to the drug war and the need to regulate drugs to reduce the carnage.

President Obama and Governor Romney have so far remained silent on the disastrous war on drugs. They need to get off the sidelines, pull their heads out of the sand and join the international debate. With three-quarters of Americans calling the drug war a failure, this would not only send the right signal to our allies abroad, but would be a politically expedient move for either candidate.

Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org) .

 

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