LIMA, Peru — Argentina has given the first sign that Uruguay’s groundbreaking cannabis reform just may have started a domino effect across Latin America. Following the momentous vote by its smaller neighbor’s senate this month — making it the…
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The war on drugs, like the US’s other wars on non-governmental entities outside its borders, has been a very costly exercise in futility for the US and its “allies” globally. Most men and women in US prisons, like the 70% of women in Latin American jails mentioned here, are there for drug offenses. In the US, this is especially offensive because prison is generally the fate of only the poor and the most egregious offenders.
Decriminalizing possession and sale of marijuana would save a fortune in police efforts and prison costs globally and would open the door to a new form of tax revenue on sales of pot. Additionally, legalization and controlled sales would help ensure the quality of marijuana and help prevent addiction to other drugs by preventing lacing of pot with other, more harmful drugs. Of course, legalizing marijuana would break the connection between pot smokers and the black market, the only real gateway to harmful drugs. With marijuana legal, countries could use fewer resources to combat traffic in heroin, meth, cocaine, and other drugs that are truly harmfulfvsn
If Latin American governments want to attract expat retirees, legalizing pot would be a good step in the right direction. The “baby boom” generation (despite their later public denials) was the first US and Canadian generation to be heavy users of pot (polls in the early 70s showed over 90% used pot), and many have resumed or continued use to the present. As this generation is retiring, they are looking for future homes that will support their lifestyles. If Panama were to legalize marijuana but Costa Rica not, the expat exodus from Costa Rica across the border would increase considerably.
It is time for Costa Rica to start a serious dialogue about legalizing marijuana to increase the tax base, reduce and refocus law enforcement efforts, improve quality of the drug already used by a large segment of the population, reduce prison populations and eliminate the need for new prisons, and attract more retirees and tourists.
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