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Imagine a post-drug war world. After decades of brutal violence, huge costs and corrupting cartels, the Americas are trying to picture it. They produce and ship the bulk of the cocaine that enters the US, the world's top user. Now leaders are discussing alternatives to the war on drugs, such as decriminalizing or legally regulating parts of the drug trade. The taboo is broken. 'Legalize it' is gaining ground.
It’s not the anti-Yankee leftist lot. Conservative US allies are mulling a legal, regulated narcotics trade.
By decriminalizing drug possession, strained criminal justice systems could place more attention on prosecuting more serious crimes, advocates say, and more public funding could be devoted to drug treatment.
But legalization efforts face plenty of skepticism from voters worried about rising drug use rates in countries that were formerly used as transit zones.
“There is no Latin American consensus that legalization is the solution,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington, DC-based policy forum Inter-American Dialogue. “But there is certainly agreement that the current, US-backed approach is not working — and that the drug problem is having adverse effects in many countries,” he said.