Many Latin American Leaders Resist Loosened Marijuana Rules

Prohibitionists hang on


ANTIGUA, Guatemala — Whatever noisy hints Latin America has been making about a defiant march toward legalizing marijuana, the summit meeting of Western Hemisphere foreign ministers that ended Thursday revealed how rocky that path would be — and how many nations remained reluctant to join it.

The meeting, the annual General Assembly session of the Organization of American States, followed a report by the organization that called for "flexible approaches" in drug policy and included a headline-grabbing suggestion that the legalization of marijuana be seriously discussed.

Even before the report, Uruguay moved toward a state-regulated marijuana market. Guatemala has talked approvingly of the idea. And the president of Colombia has said marijuana should be legalized worldwide, though his country would not take the first step.

So how quickly will pot shops open throughout the region? Not very.

The frustration with current drug policy — with its high costs, death tolls in the tens of thousands across the Americas and persistent heavy flow of narcotics — is very real. Consensus on what to do about it, however, is much harder to come by. Diplomats here even tussled behind the scenes on how to follow up on the report and how further talks should be conducted.