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End of the line for drug barons?

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Nicked: The legalisation of
drugs would be bad news for
underworld figures like
Mexico's Sergio Cortes

Nicked: The legalisation of drugs would be bad news for underworld figures like Mexico's Sergio Cortes

Nicked: The legalisation of drugs would be bad news for underworld figures like Mexico's Sergio Cortes

In a landmark speech, the president of Guatemala has told a major international conference that it's time to confront an unpalatable reality.

A number of vicious crime cartels are winning the multi-billion-dollar drugs war -- and there is little hope of bringing most of them to justice.

Otto Perez Molina, who has spent more than 20 years on the frontline battling some of the most vicious drugs barons in the world, says narcotics of all kinds should now be viewed in the same way as alcohol and tobacco.

In his highly controversial speech at the Summit of the Americas held in Colombia, he stressed that while both these substances are obviously damaging to health, their use is condoned in practically all corners of the globe.

And although US President Barack Obama said he was opposed to such a revolutionary move, many of those fighting the powerful drug cartels in Central and South America agree with the Guatemalan president that legalisation of hard drugs is the lesser of two evils.

Retired TCD professor Paul O'Mahony, who has worked for the Irish Department of Justice and is author of The Irish War on Drugs, agrees in principle with the legalisation strategy, subject to strict state controls.

"Certain criteria would have to operate for it to work. But I think it's the way of the future," said O'Mahony.

Emphasising the importance of strict regulation, he also said there must be criminal sanctions in place for those who would sell drugs to minors in this new scenario.

He also stressed that since this strategy has never been attempted before, it could not be introduced in isolation in one particular country.

"It would have to be a global phenomenon whereby people get more sensible and rational about drugs."

O'Mahony argues that the current situation has helped create a massive criminal underworld which has been "ruinous" for countries like Ireland.

Outspoken Roscommon-Leitrim TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan has long argued that cannabis "should be legalised for recreational and medicinal use".

He pointed out that the Portuguese strategy of decriminalising all drugs has been described by TIME magazine as a "roaring success".

"I think that's the way to go; this matter should be treated as a health issue and not as a criminal issue," he said.

"At the moment in Ireland there is everything from crushed-up car tyres put in hash, to silicon, to hair spray."

When asked what would be his reaction if his daughters took up cannabis should it be legalised in Ireland, he replied: "The ideal scenario is that everyone's children wouldn't drink, use any drugs, eat any saturated fat, and take the exact amount of required exercise daily. But I live in the real world."

Indo Review