During the last "electronic' town hall meeting held by the White House, the number one question put to the President was, as it always is, about ending the prohibition of marijuana. More importantly, given the failure of current policy, it was about coming up with a new policy on drugs. This time unlike others, President Obama expressed the idea that drug policy reform is, "an issue worth debating."
The President is getting that debate as he heads for South America to participate in the Summit of the Americas hosted by Columbian President Santos. President Santos called the discussion of legalizing drugs not the main topic for the Summit but one that the participating countries want to discuss. Argentina, Mexico, Columbia, Ecuador, Brazil and Uruguay have all decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use and want the United States to get control of it's drug use problem. Vice President Biden on a recent trip to Mexico said America is against legalization efforts, but did acknowledge legalization as a topic for discussion and praised Mexico's anti drug efforts.
However at the Summit of the Americas Mr. Obama will get an earful of calls for reform and legalization from the leaders attending.
Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance a drug policy reform organization while appearing on the PBS Newshour on 13 April, 2012 said, "This is really an historic gathering in many respects because it's the first major gathering of heads of state at which the issue of alternatives to the failed prohibitionist policy is going to be on the agenda. The President is not going to be hearing people say legalize all drugs tomorrow or anything like that. What he is going to hear is a coalition of Presidents, led by President Santos, the Columbian President and host of the conference and Otto Perez Molina, the former general who became the President of Guatemala and a host of others saying, open the discussion up. We need to devote the same attention to looking at alternatives to the failed Drug War Policies, including the different forms of decriminalization and legal regulation, as have been devoted to the failed Drug War policies of the past. It's a call for the opening of a new dialog and a new discussion." Mr. Nadelmann went on to say the South American leaders are looking for something regarding an opening by the President to say reform is a legitimate subject and that the United States will participate in good faith.
The genie is out of the bottle and the idea of a policy regarding drugs other than prohibition being able to be discussed seriously means that the United States suppression of any policy other than prohibition is waning. Should any of the 8 states that will have full legalization on the ballot pass their initiatives come November the government will be forced to face the fact that it has been unwilling to face. The majority of citizens no longer support the Governments policy of prohibition as the answer to our drug problem. Suffice it to say, when it comes to drug policy, it appears that finally after forty years of Nixon's War On Drugs, change might be in the air.