Ultimately, a country like Guatemala or Honduras could decide to go it alone and not pursue any cartel, whether violent or not.
This essentially would imply the de facto legalization of drug trafficking. Countries in the region less affected by the cartels, like El Salvador, would likely resist such a laissez-faire approach—fearful that the criminality could spill over to them and add to the chaos related to entrenched gang violence.
Such an accommodative policy towards the cartels would clearly violate UN drug conventions, put development aid at risk, and create conflict with powerful consuming countries. The likely result would only accelerate the flow of drugs through the country, appeal to criminal syndicates of all sorts, and further compromise the rule of law—not to mention foreign investment, economic aid and regional strategic alliances. Any country that would pursue such a policy could very well become a narco state.
Depenalization and decriminalization policies would therefore seem to be effective only for small-scale drug distribution or selling in small amounts and in countries where the rule of law prevails. Yet, given that production and trafficking countries will continue to suffer disproportionately from the illicit drug business –and that decriminalization polices would provide little relief– SmartDrugPolicy recognizes the validity in analyzing and debating the legalization of drugs. In the current context, however, the costs of such an approach far outweigh the benefits. Since the consequences of such a major policy change would be borne mainly by consumer countries from increased drug use and abuse, SmartDrugPolicy believes that it is precisely these countries who must assume the leadership, absent today, in developing and implementing more credible demand reduction policies. Enhanced efforts to reduce the demand for drugs will give consumer country governments greater moral authority in persuading production and trafficking countries to improve the rule of law prevail while helping to curb the global drug supply.