The Organisation of American States on Friday (May 17) published a new report advocating a more "human" approach to curbing drug consumption and called for greater coordination between American nations to tackle the scourge.
Almost all the cocaine consumed in Western countries is produced in Latin America, while violence linked to the drug trade kills thousands every year as smugglers fight for control of trafficking routes in Central America, Colombia and Mexico.
Drug consumption is ticking up in some nations like Argentina and Brazil. According to the Organisation of American States, OAS, about 45 percent of cocaine consumers, 50 percent of heroine takers, and 25 percent of marijuana smokers live in the American continent.
But there is limited coordinated effort between countries to fight drug trafficking and usage, which prompted several member presidents to ask the OAS to analyse the region's anti-drug policies in order to make them more effective.
The report aims to start a debate among American nations regarding anti-drug policies. It also advocates for softer policies toward drug users.
The report echoes comments by Helen Clark, the head of the UN Development Program, who in March said she favoured Latin American governments treating drugs as a public health problem.
It also calls for "a substantial reduction in penalties" to drug addicts and urges countries in the region to opt for rehabilitation programs instead.
The report suggests that countries in the region should consider the option of legalising or decriminalising marijuana consumption.
The OAS report did not find any significant support, in any of the countries, toward the decriminalisation or legalisation of any other illegal drug.
Some regional leaders are pressuring the United States for an overhaul of anti-drug policies. Presidents including Colombia's Santos have suggested they might be open to legalisation of some narcotics if that helped reduce violence.
Many in Latin America feel a new approach is needed to the drug war - and a shift away from hard-line policies - after decades of violence, in producer and trafficking nations like Colombia, Peru and Mexico.