The Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas, a newly created grouping of legislators from the 34 countries of North and South America, will spend part of its inaugural session in Ottawa next March debating the merits of legalizing the drug trade, if Colombian congressman Julio Angel Restrepo has his way.
The Ottawa Citizen reported that Restrepo last week told a steering committee planning for the forum that he wanted legalization on the agenda, which already includes such topics as encouraging democracy, poverty and debt relief, organized crime, and the drug trade. "We believe the time has come to broach this subject," he told the meeting.
Restrepo told the committee that stopping the drug trade in his and other Latin American countries was "virtually impossible" and that the vast profits at stake from the black market trade had kept his country in a state of guerrilla war for the past two decades.
The Colombian representative also cited the laws of supply and demand in arguing that prohibition is doomed to failure. "The prohibitionist laws in the States in the 1920s are a clear example that violating the law of the market is equivalent to kicking the goat," he said.
"Demythicization of this topic could be a great asset in the search for unconventional solutions to the problem of the international trade in drugs," Restrepo added.
"These are the reasons... that lead me to propose to my colleagues at the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas that the topic of legalization of drugs, until now treated as taboo, be explored. Legalization means depriving drug traffickers of the powerful economic ingredient that makes this illicit activity so lucrative," said Restrepo.
Some members of the steering committee, which includes representatives from Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Grenada, and the United States, backed Restrepo's proposal. Restrepo's compatriot, Colombian Senator Antonio Guerra, seconded his call for debate, but also said that efforts to suppress the drug trade must continue.
One of the two Canadian representatives, Liberal Senator Helene Hervieux-Payette, also expressed support for the proposal, noting that the Canadian Senate will also hold hearings on drug legalization.
The Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas was created by the Organization of American States (OAS) out of a perceived need for hemispheric information-sharing and coordination among legislators. The forum has the same membership list as the OAS, but unlike the OAS includes not only governments but also opposition parties. Also unlike the OAS, the forum does not reflect the official policies of member governments.