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US allies call for drug legalisation

•, Chris Arsenault

The Summit of the Americas, normally a subdued tri-annual gathering of regional leaders, could be more interesting than usual this year, as right-wing governments are set to clash with their US allies over the war on drugs.

An increasingly large chorus of nations - ravaged by trafficking and violence - say it's now time to re-think international drug policy. As the corrupting power of cartels grows across Mexico and Central America, and as the body count rises, legalisation needs to be seriously discussed as an alternative to militarisation, regional leaders say.

It isn't a message US President Barack Obama wants to hear when he arrives in Cartagena, Colombia, to meet 33 heads of state on April 14.

"When the word legalisation is uttered, it raises a red flag for the [US] administration," Peter Reuter, a drug policy expert at the University of Maryland, told Al Jazeera.

Legalisation, or decriminalisation, is often associated with liberal activists in North America - the pot smoking, hippy, free-love kind of crowd. Current calls, however, are coming from some of the region’s hardliners.

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