Drug War

Colombia's President: 'I Would Talk About Legalizing…More Than Just Marijuana'


In an interview with The Observer, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a leading drug warrior, elaborates on his openness to legalization:

A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking… If that means legalizing, and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it. I'm not against it….

I would talk about legalizing marijuana and more than just marijuana. If the world thinks that this is the correct approach, because for example in our case we used to be exporters, but we were replaced by the producers of California. And there even was a referendum in California to legalize it and they lost it but they could have won. I ask myself how would you explain marijuana being legalized in California and cocaine consumption being penalized in Idaho? It's a contradiction. So it's a difficult problem where you set the limits. It's a difficult decision. For example, I would never legalize very hard drugs like morphine or heroin because in fact they are suicidal drugs. I might consider legalizing cocaine if there is a world consensus because this drug has affected us most here in Colombia. I don't know what is more harmful, cocaine or marijuana. That's a health discussion. But again, only if there is a consensus.

I noted Santos' departure from prohibitionist orthodoxy last month.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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  1. Do these little “presidents” ever do anything to legalize where they are, or is the bad US policy their automatic excuse?

    1. Legalizing unilaterally would kill military aid from the US.

      1. Profits from drugs would more than compensate.

  2. “I don’t know what is more harmful, cocaine or marijuana.”

    Neither. Jazz music.

  3. “I don’t know what is more harmful, cocaine or marijuana.”

    Government, according to Rudolph Joseph Rummel.
    So maybe it’s time we thought about banning that.

  4. My Man!

  5. The guy has balls. Then again, when you’re up against the FARC…

    1. I wonder how many more years those fucking reds are going to keep up their rampage.

  6. I noted Santos’ departure from prohibitionist orthodoxy last month.

    But this is a (mild) departure from reformist orthodoxy, in which everyone who prefers any other illegal drug to marijuana, or who drinks malt liquor, or who smokes a cigarette?or who wants a fucking Happy Meal?should at least be forcibly deprived and probably also go to prison, because they’re probably black.

  7. I would never legalize very hard drugs like morphine or heroin because in fact they are suicidal drugs.

    I look forward to President Paul cutting off this rat bastards foreign aid checks.

    1. As much as I wish and hope to God Almighty that that’s the sort of thing Paul’s going to do if he’s successful and becomes President, don’t forget that he’s a high-level politician. Considering the very nature of politics and government today, and even if my fears are apparently illogical, I can’t help worrying that he MIGHT sell out once in office. God, I hope not.

      1. That would be a really small sellout. Let’s not over reach.

        1. I mean generally, not just drugs

  8. It would be pretty friggin hilarious if the WTO were asked to solve international drug trafficking issues.

  9. So why don’t any of these cowards advocate any of the abolition of the current destructive policies while they are in office? Why is it only have they leave office that they see the light of their ways and advocate a change?

    1. Because they don’t a shit about anything unrelated to their political health. Once a term limit kicks you in the ass, for example, deviating from the status quo in your rhetoric becomes inconsequential — you’re not risking your political career anymore.

      The fact of the matter is that while El Presidente is OPENLY saying he’s willing to consider partial decriminalization, he’s also, and equally, saying OPENLY that he won’t support the legalization of other drugs. If patterns of political behavior in the past are any indication at all, the best-case scenario is this guy does nothing, or gives some public speech about how he’s now reconsidered and can’t possibly support any decriminalization, apologizes, and shit carries on as usual; the worst-case scenario would be him pulling a “God-Kings of the Drug War, Supreme Logic and Wisdom of the Drug-Destroyers, Saviors of Man — forgive me, my lords, for I have sinned, and vow that I shall execute the drug war until the day my political term runs out and I fuck off to some villa somewhere. Amen”.

  10. Good for Colombia. The drug war is especially idiotic there.

    The FARC is a side issue really. The FARC is involved in the drug trade for needed money, but once in power (thankfully, never) it would be one of the biggest ant-drug nanny states ever.

    The end of the Drug War should be a simple recognition of personal sovereigty. It could also signify a beginning of Colombia’s sovereignty and hopefully its people and ditto for a dozen or so other Central and South American countries.

  11. As for Santos’ comments, the elisions are suggestive. No doubt the man is talking about legalization of marijuana and cocaine, but one suspects he’s also talking about alternative measures most of Sullum’s readers would disapprove of.

    The real news here is that Santos proposes adding cocaine to the category of “soft drugs.” If one wishes to see marijuana legalized internationally, tying the issue to cocaine legalization will make the political struggle harder. Santos’ naivete about the neuropharmacology of cocaine should make all advocates of legalization think twice about adopting him as an ally.

    Still, there’s a kind of honesty involved in broaching the subject of cocaine legalization this way. If marijuana is legalized and the violence doesn’t stop–it won’t–then should cocaine be next? And if legalizing cocaine doesn’t stop the violence, what next? So we must ask, Why is any drug illegal?

    I suspect more than a few libertarians would take the position that all drugs should be legalized regardless of what this or that gang of criminals does in the way of violence. If you’re in this camp and you latch on to arguments that legalizing drugs will cause a reduction in the rate of violent crime, it’s kind of touching to know that the violence gets to you. It doesn’t make for a persuasive argument, but it’s touching.

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