As the UN member state delegations gather their forces for the upcoming UN drug strategy review, it is vitally important to recognise the value of local activity in raising the debate on alternatives to global prohibition.
In response to the Mexican drug war taking place on their border, El Paso City Council, Texas, has taken the courageous step of calling on Congress to discuss drug legalisation as an option for ending the damage caused by prohibition.
Last Tuesday the Council voted 8-0 on a resolution drafted by the city's Border Relations Committee, outlining 11 steps the U.S. and Mexican governments can take to help El Paso's "beleaguered and besieged sister city."
All city representatives also supported an amendment by South-West city Rep. Beto O'Rourke that added a 12th step: the encouragement of the U.S. federal government to start a "serious debate" on the legalization of drugs.
See O'Rourke in action in this video, making a hell of a lot of sense.
Followed by more coverage:here, here, here, and here
Why not send a message of support to the Council.
The El Paso initiative shows how a city-wide initiative can impact internationally. This was the case when London Borough of Camden Council recommended legal regulation to the Home Affairs Select Committee drugs inquiry of 2001:
"Given the failure over several years, and across numerous agencies and countries, to have any significant effect on the supply side of the drug market, we feel it is time to consider seriously the option of undercutting the illicit market with a regulated legal market."And, given that the drug war is creating havoc everywhere, why not contact your local council representative and try and start something like this near you. Here is one of our trustees, Gary Wallace, doing just that in his local paper: The drugs debate
Camden Council's was one of the submissions (that included Transform's), that influenced the Committee in making its final recommendation, calling for a debate on legalisation and regulation. And is worthy of note in the run up to the UN drug strategy review in March this year.
"We recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways—including the possibility of legalisation and regulation—to tackle the global drugs dilemma."David Cameron, perhaps our next Prime Minister, then a back bench MP, was a member of the committee and voted for this recommendation. You may want to drop him a line too...
The El Paso initiative is in advance of talks that will take place between President-elect Obama and Mexican President Calderon that will focus on the Mexican drug war. For more on the way that the drug war horrors have escalated in Mexico over the last few months see:
- Mexico’s Unsuccessful Drug War, Painfully Preserved and Hidden
- U.S. war on drugs has failed, report says
- Mexico's Violent Drug War Wreaks Havoc on Innocent Lives
- The War Next Door
- The £15bn drugs war that has cost 7,000 lives in 2 years
- Strategies for Mexico's drug war
- Mexico Rejects Guatemala’s proposal on War Against Drugs
- Drug smugglers threaten to destroy democracy in Ghana
And, just to bring the story home to us, here in the US of England, Lily Allen told the Mail: 'Drugs won't kill you', insists Lily Allen ('and yes, I've given up')
"Lily Allen was condemned last night for suggesting that the risks of cocaine are overstated. The 24-year-old singer said: 'The only story is that drugs are bad and they will kill you - you will become a prostitute, a rapist or a dealer. But that's not true. 'I know lots of people that take cocaine three nights a week and get up and go to work everyday, no problem at all."I was called for a comment on the Lily Allen story. I suggested that the furore was about a culture clash, whereby drug use is normalised in certain subcultures. Whilst, to the outsider this behaviour appears aberrant and worthy only of condemnation. I went on to say that the most important point was to accept the reality that millions use drugs and that the priority was to keep users safe. Predictably they preferred Dominic Grieve of the Tory Party and David Raynes from the National Drug Party Prevention Alliance.