In a blistering op-ed last Wednesday in Spain's most important newspaper, El País, the country's former drug czar, Araceli Manjón-Cabeza, called for an end to drug prohibition. Manjòn-Cabeza's call for legalization comes just a week after former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González also called for drug legalization.
Manjón-Cabeza is the former director general of Spain's National Drug Plan, a former judge in the criminal chamber of the Audiencia Nacional, Spain's equivalent of the Supreme Court, and is currently professor of criminal law at Complutense University in Madrid.
"Prohibitionism, installed in the United States at the beginning of the 20th Century, and imposed by that country on the rest of the planet, has failed," Manjòn-Cabeza wrote. "There are multiple law enforcement and public health reasons that recommend legalization."
Citing a list of pro-legalization luminaries ranging from economist Milton Friedman to novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, author Paulo Coehlo, and Latin American ex-presidents Henrique Cardoso, Ernesto Zedillo, and Cesar Gaviria, and the 17,000 people who have signed the Vienna Declaration calling for science- and evidence-based drug policies, Manjón-Cabeza argues that the bloodshed in Mexico as "the clearest proof" of the futility of drug prohibition.
"Mexico provides the clearest, but not the only, proof of the failure and unbearable costs of continuing [drug prohibition]," she wrote. "Since 2006, President Calderon's war on drugs has provoked two wars -- one unleashed among the drug traffickers and one by the state against organized crime -- and 30,000 dead (900 were minors under age 17)."
While drug use might go up temporarily under legalization, that must be weighed against other "beneficial effects," she wrote: "Quality control for the substances, which would prevent the ills associated with consumption of illegal poisons that exist today; reductions in price, which would drastically reduce the indices of drug-induced delinquency; delivering consumers from especially unhealthy and dangerous markets, in order to lead them to a legal and controlled market."
But there is more, Manjón-Cabeza wrote: "It would deprive organized crime of its favorite and most profitable activity, deprive it of part of its ability to corrupt public and private wills and infiltrate the licit economy, it would dispense with the legal exceptionality demanded by the persecution and repression of the drug trade, which, at times, brings us to the limit of what the state of law is able to support; it would make vanish the pretext of the United States that an effective struggle against the drug trade justifies its intervention in the affairs of other countries punished by that whip."
Many so-called "drug problems" are really the "children of prohibition," Manjón-Cabeza wrote. The US's prohibitionist crusade beginning a century ago was not inspired by public health concerns, but by "racist motives... economic motives... political motives," including "finding one of the pretexts -- others have been communism and Islamic terrorism -- to legitimize the intervention of a great power in the evolution of other countries."
She ends her op-ed thusly: "Launching whatever legalizing option inspires vertigo, overthrowing prohibition won't be easy, but maintaining global drug prohibition is madness."
One more voice in the growing anti-prohibitionist chorus. And a highly respected one at that.