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In Colombia, David Cameron’s stance on drugs looks cynical

Twenty-six years ago, on 17 December 1986, my uncle, Guillermo Cano Isaza, editor of the Colombian daily newspaper, El Espectador, was killed by gunmen paid by Pablo Escobar and his drug trafficking cartel. He had led a journalistic crusade to denounce the corruptive and violent power of drug trafficking. He paid with his life. The newspaper he edited was bombed and became a target as we lived through the bloody years of the so-called “war on drugs”.

columbia opinion drugs david cameron ukBack then, and every year since, I’ve asked myself the same question: was it inevitable? Was there another way to fight the perverse effects of the illegal trade in drugs?

With few positive results to show from the “war”, another way now seems possible. Throughout the world, a serious debate is gaining momentum on the inefficacy of prohibition. Prosecuting growers, distributors and consumers leaves a trail of violence and does nothing to curb the sky-high profits of the cartels from corrupting the body politic and police. We need to look at different ways of managing the terrible social effects of drug abuse, while also eliminating the enormous profits of the illegal drug traffic.

It is disappointing, then, to hear that David Cameron has decided to reject the report of a cross-party committee on the UK’s drug policy, published last week, which recommended the establishment of a royal commission to review UK drug policies and explore alternatives, such as decriminalisation and legalisation. The prime minister has decided to move in precisely the opposite way from where the world is, and should be, heading.

By Fidel Cano Correa editor of the Colombian daily El Espectador
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