In a bipartisan move, two U.S. representatives from across the aisle have reintroduced legislation that is intended to reduce North, South and Central American drug trafficking. Called the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2015, this bill would include a commission for evaluating U.S. drug policies, programs and recommendations for counter-narcotics policies in South and Central America.
Latin American Drug Trafficking and Drug Violence
The current bill is a response to the fact that the drug trade between Latin America and the U.S. persists as a major problem for all countries involved. The U.S. is home to over 24 million users of illegal drugs, which drives the trade in drugs from Latin America. Of those illicit drugs used in the U.S., nearly all of the cocaine comes from South America. Most of the heroin, the use of which continues to rise among Americans, comes from Colombia or Mexico. Central American and Caribbean countries serve as entry points for drugs into the U.S. The entire region is involved in supplying drugs to meet the American demand.
In addition to the vulnerable drug abusers who become addicted and suffer or even die as a result of substance use, there are many innocent victims of the drug trade. People in Latin American countries suffer from the violence associated with drug cartels and gangs and are often coerced into becoming drug traffickers.
Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2015
Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Matt Salmon (R-AZ), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, recently reintroduced this bill in the House of Representatives in the hopes of reducing the dangerous and destructive drug trade. Both are former members of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and participated in 2014 in a meeting with Latin American leaders on U.S. drug policies in Latin America.
The meeting came to the conclusion that U.S. policies regarding the drug trade need to be reconsidered and that ignoring the drug violence in Latin America would be a mistake. The leaders from Latin America cited the violence associated with drug trafficking as their No. 1 concern. The lawmakers hope that their bill will help the U.S. take steps toward changing policies and reducing trafficking and violence.
The bill is a response to failed policies as drug use in the U.S. has not dropped with continued efforts to break up drug cartels. The new legislation would involve the creation of an independent commission to evaluate current U.S. drug policies within the country and throughout Latin America. The commission would submit recommended policy changes to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the secretary of state and Congress. The 10 members of the commission would be appointed by the president, the speaker of the House, the House and Senate minority leaders and the Senate majority leader.
While the creators of the bill recognize the responsibility the U.S. has in making efforts to reduce drug use, and thereby reducing demand for product, they also believe that policies regarding drug trafficking in Latin America also need to be addressed. They cite the billions of dollars the U.S. has already spent on such policies and the fact that drug use in the U.S. has not gone down as a result . If the bill passes, the new commission may be able to make changes to policies that would make a real difference here and in Latin America.