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U.S. Adapting To New World Of Permissible Pot

State Department

Last week, voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia became the latest to approve legalizing marijuana use. They join Colorado and Washington state.

That movement conflicts with federal law, which still says pot is illegal. And it poses a foreign policy challenge for Washington, since it complicates the message the United States conveys to other nations about the drug war. That's especially true in Latin America, where Uruguay this year became the first country to legalize pot.

But the U.S. is adapting to the new world of permissible pot, says William Brownfield. Brownfield is assistant secretary of state for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. He told WLRN on Wednesday that flexibility is the new norm.

“We have to accept that there’s going to be some Uruguays, or for that matter some Colorados and Washington states, that move toward legalization," Brownfield said, "while in other countries – Russia, China – there will be no tolerance for any legalization or any use or consumption whatsoever.”

A bigger concern is the cocaine trafficking violence that’s ravaging Central America. But Brownfield believes things are slowly improving in Honduras, which has the world’s highest murder rate today.

“If you look at homicide rates, numbers of aircraft suspected of bringing illicit product into or through Honduras," he said, "all those numbers are moving in the right direction.”

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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