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Is the war on drug crime coming to an end?

Two states, Washington and Colorado, voted to regulate marijuana like alcohol, rather than defining it as an illegal drug. By doing so, the voters in these states not only opened the door to significant changes in drug crime prosecutions, prison populations and drug-related violence, but also raised attention to the issue at a national level.

When President Obama commented on the vote, he observed that even though federal drug policy has not changed, states where pot is legal will not be "top priority" for federal drug enforcement. However, apart from these two states, is the war on drugs going to be over soon?

The answer is "quite possibly." Latin American politicians have embraced alternatives to complete prohibition. Several US governors whose names are mentioned as possible future presidential contenders have called the war on drugs a failure. Even some political conservatives - people not know for accepting attitudes toward drug use - have come out in favor of legal regulation of marijuana. Moreover, several former presidents have criticized the war on drugs as a failure in a recently released documentary. A Republican and a Democrat -Ron Paul and Barney Frank - have jointly introduced a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition. California voters have approved elimination of the state's draconian three-strikes law. Is the end in sight?

Of particular interest is the growing change in attitudes among Latin American countries. For decades states like Guatemala were held hostage to US requirements that the war on drugs be implemented in return for economic aid and trade benefits. Uruguay is leading the way in telling the United States that it will no longer participate; a proposal is currently pending in that country.

Source: Salon, "9 signs the War on Drugs is almost over," Dec. 16, 2012.

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