The war on drugs is a lost war, and 2011 is the time to move away from a punitive approach in order to pursue a new set of policies based on public health, human rights, and commonsense. These were the core findings of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy that I convened, together with former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Cesar Gaviria of Colombia.
The United States, which has waged a 40-year, $1 trillion war on drugs, is looking for answers in tiny Portugal, which is reaping the benefits of what once looked like a dangerous gamble. White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal in September to learn about its drug reforms, and other countries – including Norway, Denmark, Australia and Peru – have taken interest, too.
Prosecutors say they are increasingly mindful of as marijuana use wins growing legal and public tolerance: Some jurors may be reluctant to convict for an offense many people no longer regard as serious. "It's not on a level where it's become a problem. But we'll hear, 'I think marijuana should be legal, I'm not going to follow the law.' "
From the perspective of drug warriors, the criminal laws against drug possession are all that protect Americans from a deluge of drugs, an orgy of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine use that would kill children, destroy productivity and basically leave America a smoking hulk of wasteland populated by brain-dead zombies. New research on Portugal's drug policy suggests that this isn't necessarily so.
In July 2001, the Portuguese government introduced Law 30, setting in train a radical new approach to illicit drug use. In practice, it decriminalised the possession of certain quantities of drugs for personal use, instead referring users to one of the country’s 20 ‘dissuasion commissions’. Allied with decree 183 – which significantly expanded the network of harm reduction programmes – this meant that heroin users could seek help rather than face the wrath of the police.
A new law makes possessing up to an ounce of marijuana in California no more serious than getting a speeding ticket - a development both sides battling over a marijuana legalization ballot measure hope to exploit with the vote just a month away.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes Proposition 19, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but he offered a consolation Thursday by signing a bill that would downgrade possession of an ounce or less from a misdemeanor to an infraction. SB 1449 was written by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who said it will keep marijuana-related cases from going to court-clogging jury trials, although the penalty would remain a fine of up to $100 but no jail time.
One of Britain's most senior police officers has said youngsters caught carrying personal amounts of drugs such as cannabis should "not be criminalised", in order to allow more resources to be dedicated to tackling high-level dealers. Tim Hollis, chief constable of Humberside police, said the criminal justice system could offer only a "limited" solution to the UK's drug problem, a tacit admission that prohibition has failed.
A debate about legalizing marijuana and possibly other drugs — once a taboo suggestion — is percolating in Mexico, a nation exhausted by runaway violence and a deadly drug war. The debate is only likely to grow more animated if Californians approve an initiative on Nov. 2 to legalize marijuana for recreational use in their state.
For those who have long argued that smoking marijuana should not be a crime, a potentially historic turning point is just weeks away. Voters in California will decide Nov. 2 whether to make their state the first to legalize the growing, selling and recreational use of marijuana. And polls here - the nation's most populous state - suggest that residents are about evenly split on the issue.
In the midst of the recently resurgent debate in Britain about whether our drug laws are working – or require a major overhaul – the experience of Portugal has become a crucial piece of evidence in favour of a radical approach that has confounded the expectations of even its conservative critics, so much so that in the last month British officials have asked their Portuguese counterparts for advice, with the only caveat being that they avoid mentioning the word "decriminalise".
Although the partial decriminalization of cannabis at the beginning of this year didn't transform the capital into the new Amsterdam, as some headlines suggested, the accessibility of soft drugs, National Drug Coordinator Vobořil says, has secured the Czech Republic one of the highest rankings in Europe regarding cannabis use. The possession of more than the allowed 15 grams of cannabis is subject to a fine of up to CZK 15,000, or imprisonment of up to one year.
One of the UK's leading doctors said today the government should consider decriminalising drugs because the blanket ban has failed to cut crime or improve health. "I'm not saying we should make heroin available to everyone, but we should be treating it as a health issue rather than criminalising people," said Sir Ian Gilmore, former president of the Royal College of Physicians.
Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, launched his presidency three and a half years ago with an unprecedented military-led offensive against the country's drug cartels. Since then 28,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence that continues to escalate, with little sign that the power of the traffickers has been reduced.
Former President Vicente Fox is joining with those urging his successor to legalize drugs in Mexico, saying that could break the economic power of the country's brutal drug cartels. Fox's comments, posted Sunday on his blog, came less than a week after President Felipe Calderon agreed to open the door to discussions about the legalization of drugs, even though he stressed that he remained opposed to the idea.
La legalización del consumo y venta de drogas “blandas” (mariguana y hachís) en Holanda resultó un éxito para el sistema de salud de ese país, al disminuir el nivel de adicción a estas sustancias entre su población.
Maria Lucia Karam, a retired Brazilian judge, argues that drugs should be legalised - but regulated. Every country that has provided a glimpse of what a regulated future might look like has experienced lowered rates of death, disease, crime and addiction.
Portugal's move to decriminalize illicit substances—Europe's most liberal drug legislation—turns 10 years old this month amid new scrutiny and plaudits. Portugal's decriminalization regime has caught the eye of regulators in Europe and beyond since it was implemented in 2001. Proponents credit the program for stanching one of Europe's worst drug epidemics. Approaching a decade in force, it is providing a real-world model of one way to address an issue that is a social and economic drag on countries world-wide.