Some Latin American countries rethink drug policy

(CBS News) The legalization of marijuana use in Colorado and Washington is putting some Latin American governments in an awkward position. After four decades on the front lines of the U.S. government's drug wars, some countries are now wondering if it was worth the cost.

It is no longer a criminal act to possess small amounts of marijuana in Mexico and nine other Latin American countries.

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Producing and selling those drugs remains illegal. But after decades of battling drug lords and seizing and burning illicit drugs, the presidents of Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico -- crucial allies in America's war on drugs -- are wondering if they are fighting a losing battle.

"Look at Mexico the past six years," John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America. "More than 60,000 dead in their drug wars, and that's just one country."

This week, the presidents of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica called for an international debate on legalization.

"There is a real concern over rising crime and, in particular, violence," said Walsh. "So rather than just escalate the routine enforcement, they have decided that we ought to look at a legal regulated market as a possible solution."

According to the U.N, cannabis, which includes marijuana and hashish, is the world's most widely-used illicit substance.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Margaret Brennan is moderator of CBS News' "Face The Nation" and CBS News' senior foreign affairs correspondent based in Washington, D.C.