New US law expands drug war enforcement, extradition powers

Emily Gray Brosious

President Obama approves expansion of drug war tactics(Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

U.S. prepares drug war expansion amid growing international opposition to such policies.

On May 16, President Barack Obama signed a measure into law that doubles down on U.S. efforts to stomp out the supply-side of the international drug trade, as reported by High Times.

The Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2015, co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is described as “a bill to provide the Department of Justice with additional tools to target extraterritorial drug trafficking activity, and for other purposes.”

Feinstein says the new legal authority given to U.S. drug enforcement agencies under the law is “critical” for addressing the country’s “opioid epidemic” and preventing “dangerous drugs from entering our country.”

“Drug traffickers and criminal organizations in other countries consistently find new ways to circumvent our laws, and the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act gives the federal government the tools it needs to aggressively pursue and prosecute those outside the United States who traffic illegal — often deadly — drugs,” Feinstein said in a written statement.

“For example, drug kingpins from countries like Colombia and Peru often use Mexican trafficking organizations as mules to bring illegal narcotics into the United States,” she continued. “Now, the Justice Department will be able to take legal action against these kingpins.”

But some observers in Colombia say the new U.S. drug trafficking law targets “people on the lowest rung of the cocaine ladder, i.e. Colombia’s coca farmers,” not so-called drug “kingpins.”

More from Colombia Reports:

Thus far Colombia’s government, NGOs and various sectors of society have been seeking to deal with the weakest links in the drug trafficking trade in a completely different way.

The general consensus and intention has been to decriminalize those who were most likely forced in to growing coca, which makes up about 60,000 peasant families across the country.

President Obama’s final approval of yet another drug war expansion policy stands in stark contrast to growing political opposition in South and Central America to the U.S.-led drug war.

A major United Nations meeting on international drug policy, held in April 2016 at the UN General Assembly headquarters in New York City, also saw numerous international groups and political representatives join together in calls urging the U.S. to de-escalate its War on Drugs.

More than 250 groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), AIDS Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Harm Reduction Coalition, along with prominent global leaders like entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, criticized the Obama administration for not using the meeting as an opportunity to consider strategies for ending the “failed War on Drugs.”

In a joint letter, the group accused the administration of taking a “short-term approach” to international drug policy, and neglecting to address “crucial reforms” aimed at prioritizing health and human rights over punitive tactics.

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See also: 10 shocking facts about the U.S. War on Drugs

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Gallery statistics via Drug Sense and Vox.

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