Latin America is following suit with the rest of North America in ending marijuana prohibition and finding different approaches/strategies to dealing with drug use. The government is finally coming to terms with the inefficiency of prohibition, the imprisonment of drug users, and the social problems that arise from the ‘War on Drugs’. Surveys of state and federal prisons in the U.S. suggest that 60% of inmate’s sentences for drug crimes were convicted in cases involving marijuana. Ms. Pérez Correa says, “There is an enormous institutional and social cost to enforcing the laws against marijuana. How many resources are being used up to reduce these low-impact [non-violent] crimes?”
John Walsh, a senior associate of a human rights group called Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) speaks on the paradigm shift concerning drug prohibition. Walsh states, “Every country in the world signed up to a treaty that prescribed a prohibitionist and criminalized approach to dealing with drugs that was one-sided. That basic response doesn’t work anymore”
In 2013, Uruguay enacted a law to legalize marijuana.
Chile has harvested its first batch of legal medicinal marijuana this year.
This year in Brazil, the Supreme Court has debated the decriminalization of drugs including marijuana and cocaine.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has called for a shift in drug policies. Earlier this year, 2015, the Colombian government “ordered a halt to the aerial spraying of illegal coca fields, [because of concerns about the herbicide spray being cancerous] rejecting a major tool in the American-backed antidrug campaign.”
On Wednesday November 4, 2015, the Mexican Supreme court set into motion legalizing marijuana in response to a petition by a group that advocates for sensible drug policies. The court’s criminal chamber has declared that it is a human right for individuals to be allowed to grow and distribute marijuana for personal use. This motion sets the roots (precedents) for further legal action to take place regarding legalization and legal marijuana distribution. This decision is a key indication of the changing views in Mexico, a country that, for decades, has backed up some rigid and conservative anti-drug campaigns. Marijuana activists believe that an end to prohibition would be followed with a decrease in political corruption and the subsequent violence that is fueled by drug trafficking into the United States. Juan Francisco, a corporate lawyer who was one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, expresses the frustration of working for a campaign against traffickers, “ It’s the drama behind all of our efforts.” Armando Santacruz, another plaintiff in the case says, “We are killing ourselves to stop the production of something that is heading to the U.S., where it’s legal.” Despite the United States own production of marijuana, a significant percentage of drugs in the U.S. are still supplied by Mexican gangs. According to a report by the RAND Corporation in 2010, “Marijuana accounts for more than a fifth of revenues generated by cartels, around $1.5 billion a year.”
Unfortunately, the Supreme Courts ruling only applies to the petition of the Mexican Society of Responsible and Tolerant Consumption. In order for legal marijuana to become the law in Mexico, the justices in the court’s criminal chamber must rule the same way five times.
Enrique Peña Nieto, the president of Mexico, has stated that he will respect the Supreme Courts Decisions regarding the petition but is opposed to full legalization of marijuana just as the Roman Catholic Church does.