Report by OAS Calls for Discussion on Legalizing Marijuana

A report released by the Organization of American States (OAS) calls for a discussion on legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, the Associated Press reports. The group represents 35 countries in the Americas.

There is no significant support among Latin American countries for legalizing cocaine, the illegal drug that has the greatest impact on the region, according to the AP.

The report calls for greater flexibility in dealing with the drug problem, which it states “could lead to the possibility of amending domestic legislation or promoting changes to international law.” Sooner or later, decisions will need to be made about decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, the report notes.

It examines four possible scenarios for dealing with the illegal drug trade. The most extreme option would be for countries to simply stop fighting drug production and trafficking, in order to reduce violence.

The report states drug abuse should be thought of as a public health problem, and recommended that people who abuse drugs should not be criminally prosecuted, and instead should receive treatment.

Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, told the AP “any suggestion that nations legalize drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine runs counter to an evidenced-based, public health approach to drug policy and are not viable alternatives.”

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said in a news release, “It is clearly contradictory to say you want to treat drug addicts as people with an illness and at the same time, penalize them for their consumption.” He added, “This does not mean that the patient does not need to be treated to remove them from their addiction and this could mean—if the addict threatens their own life or the security of others—a stay in a health facility. But we do not consider that sending serious addicts to prison is an appropriate treatment and, indeed, we think it can aggravate their condition even beyond the point of no return.”