Police patrol a coca field as hired farmers uproot coca shrubs as part of a manual eradication campaign of illegal crops in San Miguel on Colombia's southern border with Ecuador. Former Colombian Drug Czar Julian Wilches thinks it's time to discuss legalizing such operations. 

(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

What does pot in Colorado have to do with cocaine in Colombia? 

Colombia's former drugs czar, Julian Wilchessees a connection in policy. He thinks legalization efforts in the U.S. will help his country shift from its zero-tolerance stance on cocaine. 

"We have been following the rules, we've been going by the book, and it's not working," he said on a visit to Denver. "It's time we look for alternatives." 

Wilches came to Colorado last month to highlight the state's legalization effort as one model that could work in Latin America. But he also wanted to give the U.S. a pat on the back for allowing its states to experiment with drug policies. 

He hopes that leniency extends onto the international stage. The U.S. has supported prohibition policies across the globe since Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971. But the U.S. has softened its stance since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana. 

Wilches spoke to Colorado Matter's host Nathan Heffel. The stop was one part of a five-city tour  ahead of a U.N. special session on international drug policy. That session starts tomorrow. It will be the first time the U.N. has taken up international drug policy in 18 years.