Saturday, March 07, 2009

Drug consumption

I do not want to make too much of it, but I like the subtle shift in tone I've been hearing about the "drug war" toward acknowledging the essential component of demand in the United States. Last November the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico said publicly that Mexico's cartel problem would not exist without that demand, even though the Bush administration was cutting drug treatment programs.

Now, however, the message seems to be spreading. From a March 5 State Department press briefing:

QUESTION: This is a follow-up to the State Department report on narcotics last week. AP interviewed Mexican President Calderon, and he shot back, saying that U.S. corruption is also to blame. He said that there are U.S. officials who should be prosecuted for corruption who aren’t. He also blamed the United States for not stopping the flow of weapons into Mexico. And finally, he says that there was not enough done to stop the consumption of drugs in this country. So just your reaction to his statements?

MR. DUGUID: I do believe that Ambassador Johnson was on the record speaking to many of these same issues in another context, and that the United States does recognize that we have a consumption problem and that we need to do – we need to do a lot to solve that problem or resolve that problem.

We will make so much more progress if that element becomes a core part of drug policy.


Russell 4:18 PM  

Well put. I take it you've seen the oft-cited RAND study about the cost effectiveness of treatment vs. other strategies, right? If not, they're numbers are worth looking at.

Justin Delacour 5:03 PM  

I like the subtle shift in tone I've been hearing about the "drug war" toward acknowledging the essential component of demand in the United States.

But there is nothing even remotely new about this. I'm analyzing old U.S. media coverage of Latin America, and I recently came across a statement --aired on ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings-- that President Clinton made in a joint press-conference with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo on May 6, 1997:

Pres. BILL CLINTON: Let's be frank here among friends. On the American side, the problems are we have less than 5 percent of the world population, and we consume about half the drugs. That s our big problem.

That's a far more frank statement than the one made by Duguid, and it was made by the U.S. president no less, but it doesn't change the fact that the United States was every bit as wedded to the "drug war" under Clinton as it was under Bush and that there is no real sign of a shift today.

As the Clinton rhetoric shows, frank official acknowledgements of a demand problem in the U.S. can in no way be interpreted as any sort of signal of shift away from the "drug war."

sharon 4:34 AM  

thanks for the link...

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