New OAS Report Eyes 'Health' Approach, Decriminalization Of Drugs In The Americas

A new Organization of American States study commissioned in response to calls by some Latin American leaders for rethinking the drug war discusses possible decriminalization of consumption of marijuana as part of a public health approach.

The $2.2 million study makes no firm recommendations, instead suggesting several possible ways to stem the illicit drug trade, which has fueled violent crime and corruption and even destabilized governments.

The study emphasizes drug abuse as primarily a public health issue. That echoes the approach of the U.S. government. But the U.S. has strongly opposed decriminalization even though voters in two states have legalized marijuana.

The OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said nations must take a multifaceted, flexible, approach that takes into account differences, and the countries of the regions must be united in their diversity.

In the Americas, Insulza said, "approximately 45 percent of all the cocaine users in the world are found, approximately half of the heroin users and a quarter of the total marijuana users. The consumption of cocaine paste, crack, inhalants, amphetamines and the abuse of legal drugs has increased."

He also said that this consumption “generates some 151 billion dollars in drug retail alone” in the hemisphere.

The report was presented Friday by Insulza in Bogota to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

"We have tried not to silence or hide anything," he said in his speech Friday.  In order to “show the problem just as it is."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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