Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rethinking the ‘war on drugs’: Insights from the US and Mexico

by Ernesto Zedillo


May 22, 2012

Illegal drugs are one of the planet’s most pressing problems. They shatter hundreds of millions of lives and wreak untold social, economic and political damage in both consuming and producing nations. In this column, ex-President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo introduces an eBook he edited on the issue that points very strongly in the direction of a serious reconsideration of drug policy.

America’s most loved economics textbook (Mankiw 2012) uses the ‘war on drugs’ to illustrate how restricting supply when demand is inelastic increases the total cash spent on illegal drugs. Every anti-smuggling tactic makes each consignment more profitable. No wonder the US war on drugs is not going so well. Yet despite 40 years of violence, corruption and continuing addiction, the US is in no mood to alter course.

At the Summit of the Americas last month, the Colombian and Guatemalan Presidents called for a new approach. The US flatly rules out any change. Dan Restrepo, the National Security Council's senior director for Latin America, said in a press conference on the summit: “US policy on this is very clear. The President doesn't support decriminalisation, but he does consider this is a legitimate debate. And it's a legitimate debate because it helps to demystify this as an option”. (Rogin 2012)


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