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Senators Introduce Bill to Create Western Hemisphere Drug Commission

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #663)
Politics & Advocacy

US Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Dick Lugar (R-IN) last Wednesday introduced a bill that would create an independent commission to evaluate US policies and programs aimed at reducing the supply of and demand for illegal drugs in the Americas. Similar legislation sponsored by Reps. Elliot Engel (D-NY) and Connie Mack (R-FL) passed the House one year to the day earlier.

The bill, the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2010, also known as SB 4001, would also require that the commission recommend a multiyear anti-drug strategy to address what the members called "the escalating security crisis in the hemisphere fueled by the illicit narcotics trade." That strategy will "describe the assistance required to achieve regional counternarcotics goals and methodology for countering shifts in production and transit routes by producers and traffickers due to pressure from counternarcotics efforts."

The 10-member commission would consist of two members appointed by the executive branch and eight members appointed by the congressional leadership.

If the comments of Sens. Menendez and Lugar below are any indication, the commission's charge will not be to come up with an alternative to drug prohibition, but to find more effective means of prosecuting the drug war.

"While we have had some notable successes in the hemisphere, the plague of narcotics and organized crime has surged in Mexico and Central America and remains an intractable problem in much of the rest of the region," said Sen. Menendez on introducing the bill. "It is imperative that we assess our efforts at home and aboard to determine where we are succeeding and where we are not.  Despite the billions of dollars spent on counternarcotics efforts in the Western Hemisphere, hard data proves that the positive results have been limited and that we still face a very real challenge. We need a comprehensive and smart policy that looks at both the supply and demand side of the issue -- domestic prevention and treatment programs, as well as a long-term multi-year counternarcotics strategy -- and that ultimately succeeds in turning around this epidemic of drugs and crime that is destroying families, communities, and undermining the rule of law both at home and abroad."

"Though we still have a long way to go, it is clear that efforts to fight the common threat posed to the hemisphere by drug traffickers and organized crime are showing some positive results. It is also clear that many of these efforts should be strengthened," said Sen. Lugar. "As the creation of this commission suggests, the United States should undertake a broad review of further steps to determine what is working and reassess the implementation of those policies that are not. I am especially interested in efforts to bolster the role of the US military and the intelligence community to help combat cartels headquartered in Mexico with reach in Central American countries, Venezuela and throughout the region. New approaches might include ways to jointly deploy aviation, surveillance and intelligence assets where necessary. Ultimate victory in this war will require improving capabilities, adapting tactics to counter threats by cartels and building closer partnerships with the hemisphere’s willing governments," Lugar concluded.

The US government has poured tens of billions of dollars into fighting the hemispheric war on drugs in recent decades, but has little to show for it. After a decade of Plan Colombia and the expenditure of $7 billion, the US can point to reductions in coca production there (although some of it has simply moved to Peru, which is now arguably the world's number one producer). After three years of Plan Merida and the expenditure of $1.4 billion, prohibition-related violence in Mexico is worse than ever.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Swimmer23 (not verified)

This is going to be the commission that finally ends the drug war for sure, I just have a warm feeling all over about this. Wait, no... I'm just high. Never mind.   

Sat, 12/11/2010 - 10:16pm Permalink
Susan Hetrick (not verified)

Woooow. I guess some people (politicians especially) refuse to learn from past mistakes. Too bad those mistakes cost so damned much money of the American taxpayer, not to mention the ridiculous interuption of lives that were most likely doing something that harms no one, even themselves. If a small amount of people were blasting all those drugs floating around, we would see those people one way or another.  As it is, most of the "prohibition" drugs are used by responsible adults, in a purely receational manner, in the privacy of their own homes. (Those same taxpayers who are working to pay for the drug war.)

I'm a grownup... and I'm tired of being treated like I'm not.


SPEAK UP PEOPLE! Today! Call your representatives. Thanks.

Sat, 12/11/2010 - 10:59pm Permalink
ivandoga (not verified)

I don't understand why people are so upset about drugs. We take millions of government approved prescription drugs everyday. I take a high blood pressure pill and a statin daily.  These pills are hopefully helping me live a better more longer life.  I will never try, or have plans to try cocaine, heron, or Meth, These are drugs I find too hard to understand. There use can course death i.e Poisons, but for weed I have great appreation.  I have smoked it for pain relief (lower back disc surgery and crushed hand). I could have have very strong pain killers, but did not like the side affect.  It worked fine.  After two years of use I quit to go back to work full time. I still smoke at party once or twice a year for fun and laughs.  I read these articles and thing to my self millions of people die ever year from cigarettes world wide and we do not try to eradicate this problem, it is mine boggling.  If weed killed million, it would enemy number one on the radar for eradication, Weed may ruin a few lives (no more than may of the hundred of thing we come across in our daily life. I would like for someone form our government to truly tell use WHY smoking a joint is sooo dame bad.  I understand it is not good for kids, but there are so many thing that are bad for kids these days, just watch the news, funny we still survive.  All I want is the Truth and let me decide for my self.

Sun, 12/12/2010 - 2:18am Permalink
Paradoc (not verified)


   If there were any correlation between the amount of Taxpayer dollars spent on the "War on Drugs" and its outcome, I'd be slightly interested to know how it worked .Hey, guys-"Pouring More money at this problem doesn't make it ANY better!~It just makes you look foolish and out of touch" So Please STOP IT, and put that money where it belongs-In social programs or anywhere else. "How many WARS can we fight?"

  Taking the same, failed policies of the past and dressing them-up with other names just do the same thing that the failed efforts did yield .NOTHING!~ The "definition" of Insanity is: To " systematically repeat the same actions so as to achieve a different outcome" I know NO better definition of Insanity and Government run-amok than the examples of how our country is so willing to curtail our personal right to choose which substance, medication or herbal preparation I put into my own body. They have GOT to have better things to do.

                So I have written a direct letter. I want an answer-I deserve it.

     Dear U. S. Government. I am a Tax-Paying, honest American and have served in our country's Military where I took an oath to  protect and defend our Constitution against any and all who wish to do it, and our way of life, harm.

     I now find myself, older, hurting and suffering but  having to break the laws of our land because someone in "our" Government decided for me that it was Illegal  to use a natural plant that has been growing wild since before the time of our great Republic-to quiet the chronic, daily pain and anxieties with which I must live. Pharmaceutical companies routinely get medications "Fast-Tracked" through the FDA if their drug shows even the most remote chance of helping someone-(along with having a barrel of cash to "help" the approval process") Cannabis has got to be the most studied substance we know and, yet-0the FDA considers it a "Dangerous Drug with NO medicinal value"..

     I refuse to be treated as if I have NO concept of right or wrong

     I refuse to have decisions made for me-about which I have NO  direct input.

     I refuse to continue to watch as you squander my Tax Dollars on failed programs that do nothing.

     I am ashamed for my Government You were entrusted with our voices, a power, which you wielded and abused- so irresponsibly. We can cast our votes and send you packing and return our country to the great place it once was-Where the politicians WERE NOT THE ONES DONG THE GREATEST HARM TO OUR CONSTITUTION.

     After all, I took the oath.

God Bless America

Sun, 12/12/2010 - 10:39am Permalink
Rural WA (not verified)

This is not the sort of Commission we need. I'd like to suggest spreading some

information around in hopes of influencing introduction of a bill to form a very

different Commission with socially positive goals consistent with the US

Constitution and good foreign policy such as promotion of peace, health and

tolerance. Additional suggestions welcome if there is an interest in this idea.

First, of course, would be the US Constitution with special reference to the Bill

of Rights.

In addition to domestic sources of information there should certainly be

information from outside the US and the perspective of its drug abuse-industrial

complex. My first two suggestions are from the United Nations. Bring them to

the attention of every member of Congress, the President, the Secretary of State,

the Attorney General, the DEA Administrator, the Drug Czar, drug policy reform

organizations, patient rights groups, general civil liberties organizations,

Democracy Now!, other news organizations, the general public and whoever else

seems appropriate.

1) Go to Click on

Documents. At the row  with column entries "GA  65th  06/08/2010 A/65/255 

Report submitted by Anand Grover, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone

to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health 

E F S A C R" click on E to access a 25 page PDF of this United Nations report

in English. Alternately go to

Click on Annual Reports. In the row for 2010 in the column row for A/65/255

click on E to access this PDF in English.


The current international system of drug control has focused on creating a

drugfree world, almost exclusively through use of law enforcement policies and

criminal sanctions. Mounting evidence, however, suggests this approach has

failed, primarily because it does not acknowledge the realities of drug use and

dependence. While drugs may have a pernicious effect on individual lives and

society, this excessively punitive regime has not achieved its stated public health

goals, and has resulted in countless human rights violations.

People who use drugs may be deterred from accessing services owing to the
threat of criminal punishment, or may be denied access to health care altogether.
Criminalization and excessive law enforcement practices also undermine health-

promotion initiatives, perpetuate stigma and increase health risks to which entire
populations — not only those who use drugs — may be exposed. Certain

countries incarcerate people who use drugs, impose compulsory treatment upon

them, or both. The current international drug control regime also unnecessarily

limits access to essential medications, which violates the enjoyment of the right to


The primary goal of the international drug control regime, as set forth in the
preamble of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), is the “health and
welfare of mankind”, but the current approach to controlling drug use and

possession works against that aim. Widespread implementation of interventions

that reduce harms associated with drug use — harm-reduction initiatives — and

of decriminalization of certain laws governing drug control would improve the

health and welfare of people who use drugs and the general population


Moreover, the United Nations entities and Member States should adopt a right to
health approach to drug control, encourage system-wide coherence and
communication, incorporate the use of indicators and guidelines, and consider
developing a new legal framework concerning certain illicit drugs, in order to

ensure that the rights of people who use drugs are respected, protected and



 2) A 2007 "Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,
Asma Jahangira" online at with special

reference to the parts of the report on "Freedom to worship", "Discrimination on

the basis of religion or belief/inter-religious discrimination/tolerance" and "State

Religion" which are two of many parts that have special significance for me. For


"Freedom to worship"
1981 Declaration of the General Assembly

Art. 6 (a) : The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief

includes the freedom, "To worship or assemble in connection with a religion or

belief [.];".

Art. 6 (c) : The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief

includes the freedom, "To make, acquire and use the necessary articles and

materials related to the rites or customs of a religion or belief;".

Human Rights Committee general comment 22

Para . 4 : "The concept of worship extends to ritual and ceremonial acts giving

direct expression to belief, as well as various practices integral to such acts,

including [.] the use of ritual formulae, and objects [.]."

"Discrimination on the basis of religion or belief/inter-religious

Human Rights Committee general comment 22

Para . 2 : "The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to

discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that

they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the

subject of hostility on the part of a predominant religious community."


"State Religion"
Human Rights Committee general comment 22

Para . 9 : "The fact that a religion is recognized as a State religion or that it is

established as official or traditional or that its followers comprise the majority of

the population, shall not result in any impairment of the enjoyment of any of the

rights under the Covenant, including articles 18 and 27, nor in any discrimination

against adherents to other religions or non-believers. In particular, certain

measures discriminating against the latter, such as measures restricting eligibility

for government service to members of the predominant religion or giving

economic privileges to them or imposing special restrictions on the practice of

other faiths, are not in accordance with the prohibition of discrimination based on

religion or belief and the guarantee of equal protection under article 26. The

measures contemplated by article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant constitute

important safeguards against infringement of the rights of religious minorities and

of other religious groups to exercise the rights guaranteed by articles 18 and 27,

and against acts of violence or persecution directed towards those groups. The

Committee wishes to be informed of measures taken by States parties concerned

to protect the practices of all religions or beliefs from infringement and to protect

their followers from discrimination. Similarly, information as to respect for the

rights of religious minorities under article 27 is necessary for the Committee to

assess the extent to which the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion

and belief has been implemented by States parties. States parties concerned

should also include in their reports information relating to practices considered

by their laws and jurisprudence to be punishable as blasphemous."

Para . 10 : "If a set of beliefs is treated as official ideology in constitutions,

statutes, proclamations of ruling parties, etc., or in actual practice, this shall not

result in any impairment of the freedoms under article 18 or any other rights

recognized under the Covenant nor in any discrimination against persons who do

not accept the official ideology or who oppose it."


 There's a link to a PDF of the report on the page. The PDF link is at the end of

the paragragh below "A/HRC/6/5, Summary:" and the html version begins just

below the paragraph. 

Mon, 12/13/2010 - 12:10am Permalink
Carmen L. Brown (not verified)

Dear all,

The reason for this commission is to buy time for a failed policy.  To accomplish this they plan to escalate war. 

They fully understand that their policy is on the ropes.  The drug war is failed and dying. It only continues because that's what we did yesterday, but that justification is rapidly losing support.  They need an infusion of hope.  They need to expand the war or else it will die. 

This commission is a vehicle for renewing the drug war.  They will pin all the past failures on past commissions, panels, papers, strategies, etc.  They will announce that they are going to make real progress and they they will finally get it right.  Creation of this commission could give them another decade before people realize that it too has failed.

I hope we can prevent the creation of this commission.  What is the number of the bill? Where is it in the legislative process?  Who will get it next? Where are their full press releases and white papers? What is their proposed strategy and how does it differ from the old strategy?

Conversely, we could do nothing and wait for massive bloodshed.  It will likely be so terrible that people might just conclude for themselves the drug war is hopelessly failed.  But I'd rather fight them every step of the way. 


Carmen L Brown

Thu, 12/16/2010 - 4:15pm Permalink
MTinMO (not verified)

I have to wonder why we don't first insist that the government reclassify marijuana to it's "proper as long as it's is illegal" class? It should have never been classed in the same class as cocaine and heroin and other hard core drugs. Even the most anti-marijuana person should be able to admit that the classification is bogus. It is not even close to the same as those others. With the prevalence of meth and other drugs of that sort, they need to get back to reality and classify it like it once was. It should no longer be illegal, but until we win that battle, it should at least be reclassified. 

Sun, 12/19/2010 - 6:21pm Permalink

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