WASHINGTON, DC— Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, today introduced legislation aimed at reducing drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2014 would create an independent commission to evaluate American drug policies and programs, assess which efforts are succeeding, and make recommendation on future counternarcotics policy.

“Since 1980, we have spent nearly $16 billion on counternarcotics programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. We need to make sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck. My legislation would take a hard look at what’s working and what’s falling short, and help us chart the future course of our drug policies,” said Rep. Engel.

"In a Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing I convened recently, we heard how transnational criminal and narcotics trafficking organizations are becoming more sophisticated in evading law enforcement and increasingly more violent. This violence along our border and near our shores poses a direct threat to our national security and destabilizes our region. With billions of dollars spent on efforts to deter and dismantle narcotics trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean with mixed success, it is time to reevaluate our policies and programs. I am proud to work with Ranking Member Engel on this important and timely Commission as we take steps to ensure that we have the best strategy and are using taxpayer resources wisely and efficiently to combat the scourge of drug trafficking in our hemisphere," said. Rep. Salmon.

Additional cosponsors of the bill include Representatives Albio Sires (D-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).

The bill would create an independent commission which would be charged with reviewing and evaluating U.S. policy regarding illicit drug supply reduction and interdiction in the Western Hemisphere. The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission would be required to submit recommendations on future U.S. drug policy to Congress, the Secretary of State and the Office of National Drug Control Policy 12 months after its first meeting. The Commission would be composed of 10 members–two appointed by the President and two appointed by each of the following congressional leaders: the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader.

Nearly all cocaine consumed in the United States originates in South America while most of the heroin consumed in the U.S. originates in Colombia and Mexico. In addition, Central America and the Caribbean are key transit regions for drugs entering the United States. In 2012, there were an estimated 23,900,000 illicit drug users in the United States. While billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been spent over the years to combat the drug trade in Latin America and the Caribbean, illegal drug use in the United States remains high. The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission would recommend the best options moving forward.

Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives unanimously on December 8, 2009 with a diverse group of 30 bipartisan cosponsors.