Colombian cultivation of the coca plant - used as the raw material in the production of cocaine - has fallen significantly, a UN report shows.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime said cultivation dropped by 18% in 2008, following a 27% rise in 2007. The agency said the value of the coca leaf had fallen, causing some farmers to stop growing the crop. But there was a 4% increase in coca growing in Peru, the report said, and a 9% boost in Bolivia.
My Sunday column looks at the 40-year “war on drugs” and argue that it has failed and that it is time for a dramatic rethink of drug policy. I haven’t written about drugs before because I’ve been ambivalent — in particular, I’ve worried that liberalization would lead to an increase in drug use. I’m not one of those who thinks that drugs are fine — on the contrary, I’ve seen how narcotics can devastate families, even countries. My home town of Yamhill, Oregon, has been hit hard by the Meth explosion.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s start of the war on drugs, and it now appears that drugs have won.
“We’ve spent a trillion dollars prosecuting the war on drugs,” Norm Stamper, a former police chief of Seattle, told me. “What do we have to show for it? Drugs are more readily available, at lower prices and higher levels of potency. It’s a dismal failure.”
For that reason, he favors legalization of drugs, perhaps by the equivalent of state liquor stores or registered pharmacists. Other experts favor keeping drug production and sales illegal but decriminalizing possession, as some foreign countries have done.