Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in a speech Thursday at the United Nations that the war on drugs has been a failure and that a new approach is needed to tackle the problem.
“If we’ve applied a prescription based primarily on repression for so long without solving the problem, it’s time to opt for a different treatment,” Santos said at a U.N. summit on drug policy.
Santos made it clear the Andean nation did not advocate the legalization of illicit substances and would continue to combat drug trafficking, but he stressed the importance of new approaches that prioritize human rights and treat drug consumption as a public health problem.
“Drugs are for criminals not addicts,” Santos said.
In that regard, he criticized the fact that the war on drugs had fed upon the “weakest links in the drug trafficking chain” and said “small farmers, so-called drug mules and consumers fill prisons around the world.”
“How do I explain to a poor Colombian farmer that he’s going to jail for growing marijuana when in states like Colorado or Washington here in the United States anyone can freely produce, sell and consume that same marijuana? It doesn’t make sense,” Santos said.
He said therefore that the focus of law-enforcement efforts should be large drug-trafficking gangs and organizations that facilitate money laundering, hitting criminal outfits where it “hurts them the most” by pursuing their money.