Around the World

New Look at Global Policy After “Failure” of War on Drugs

For decades, an ongoing war has rivaled many of the longest-running conflicts in the world in terms of cost, casualties and time. It is the war on drugs. Here in the United States and worldwide, especially in Latin America, the consequences of the illegal drug trade, a multibillion dollar underground industry, have been severe. It has led to countless deaths, shattered families and neighborhoods, and even destroyed the fabric of entire cities.

But some world leaders are now calling for a new approach to this war, an approach that focuses less on prohibition and more on regulating and even controlling the drug trade.

More than 40 years ago, President Richard Nixon famously declared drug abuse "public enemy No. 1." A decade earlier, in 1961, a United Nations treaty set limits on narcotics for medical and scientific purposes, and also proposed international cooperation to combat drug trafficking. The U.S. took the lead in that war. Now, the U.N. General Assembly has voted to take a new look at global drug policy, in a special session to be held in the year 2016.

The summit was proposed by several Latin American countries, including Mexico and Colombia, which are pushing for alternative approaches to combating the drug trade. Latin America is the world's top producer of cocaine and marijuana and most countries on the continent have zero-tolerance drug policies. But after decades of violence and death — an estimated 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico since 2006 — leaders say they want to look at other approaches. Guatemala's president, Otto Pérez Molina, has openly proposed decriminalizing certain drugs. And Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, said it was worth taking a look at Portugal's drug policies, among the most liberal in the world. At the Ibero-American Summit in November, the Latin American leaders noted what happened on Election Day in the United States, when both Colorado and Washington state legalized marijuana.

A new documentary, "Breaking the Taboo," takes a look at one organization pushing for a sea change in international drug policy. Christiane talks with Sam Branson, the filmmaker, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil and chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

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