Trafficking-affected countries could go as far as to implement a decriminalization regime.
As with the decriminalization of consumption, a different legal framework would be required to replace incarceration with gradated sanctions that would increase in severity with the frequency of offenses and the amount of drugs confiscated. While violent traffickers would still be brought to justice, non-violent offenders —and those without violent criminal records—could be referred to a panel of experts to facilitate their rehabilitation and ultimate reintegration into society. This is undoubtedly a lofty proposition (particularly for cartel bosses), and would require intervention to provide offenders with the necessary skills to prepare them for a job that pays more than smuggling drugs. It also requires that such jobs exist.
Notwithstanding the cost of implementing such a system for resource strapped Latin American governments, a large-scale decriminalization of the sale of drugs would be hindered ultimately by their weak states, particularly in Central America. The Worldwide Governance Indicators of the World Bank and the Brookings Institution have consistently placed countries like Guatemala and Honduras in the lowest 20th percentile for the rule of law globally and among the worst in Latin America. Likewise, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks both countries among the bottom 35% globally. If glaring institutional weakness and corruption are the primary challenges, how could a government body charged with transparently imposing sanctions under decriminalization, or lesser penalties under depenalization, be any more effective at reducing crime, corruption and violence? You only need to look at what triggered the worst corruption scandal to-date in Guatemala in order to question the viability decriminalizing the trafficking of drugs in most Latin American countries.