WASHINGTON, DC— Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, today announced that they have reintroduced legislation aimed at reducing drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. Both Representatives Engel and Salmon are former Chairmen of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2015 would create an independent commission to evaluate American drug policies and programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, assess which efforts are succeeding, and make recommendation on future counternarcotics policy.
“Over the last few decades, we’ve spent billions and billions on counternarcotics programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, yet more and more Americans are using illegal drugs. We mustn’t give up on this effort, but we should be smart in the way we spend our resources,” said Rep. Engel. “This legislation would force us to take a hard look at our drug policy and make sure we have the best strategy going forward.”
“Transnational criminal and narcotics trafficking cartels, strengthened by their massive illegal profits, pose a continued threat to the integrity of our southern border and the safety of the Americans residing along it. With billions spent on efforts to deter and dismantle narcotics trafficking with mixed success, it is time to reevaluate our policies and programs. I am proud to work with Rep. Engel on this Commission to ensure that we have the best strategy to combat the scourge of drug trafficking in our hemisphere," said Rep. Salmon.
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 would be appointed by the President and two 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 2013, an estimated 24,573,000 people in the United States used illicit drugs, an increase of more than half a million from the previous year. 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.
Representatives Engel and Salmon originally introduced this legislation in the 113th Congress, and the Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the bill. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives unanimously on December 8, 2009 with a diverse group of 30 bipartisan cosponsors.
Read the original legislation here