A conclave of Central American presidents meeting in Guatemala to discuss a major overhaul of their drug laws — including legalization or decriminalization — failed to arrive at a consensus Saturday and agreed to meet again soon in Honduras. Some sort of policy declaration was expected after the meeting, yet at day's end there was no reason given for its absence. But a disappointing turnout may have been a factor: Panama's Ricardo Martinelli and Costa Rica's Laura Chinchilla attended; the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua stayed home.
The police and the courts can neither keep up with the surge in small-scale production, nor are they desperately keen to do so. Last month the government published new sentencing guidelines that advised judges to treat small cultivators less strictly. Attitudes to smokers are softening, too. The reclassification of cannabis in 2009, from class C to the more stringent class B, was oddly accompanied by a more liberal approach to policing consumption. Users caught on the street are rarely arrested; rather, they are issued “cannabis cautions” (a reprimand which doesn’t appear on a criminal record) or fined.
On the campaign trail, Otto Perez Molina vowed to rule his country with an iron fist. The retired general said he would send troops into the streets to fight drug violence. Analysts summed up his political platform with three words: law and order. Now – just two months after taking office – the Guatemalan president is pushing a controversial proposal that has come under fire from U.S. officials and earned praise from people who were once his critics. Last year's law-and-order candidate said he wanted to legalize drugs.
Colorado's top federal prosecutor has ordered 25 medical marijuana shops located near schools to close in an escalating pot clampdown, as the state gears up for a battle at the ballot box over broader recreational use of the drug. Attorney John Walsh warned owners of the centers in letters that they have 45 days to shut down or "action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property," his office said.
Latin American leaders are increasingly speaking out against prohibition. And public opinion in America, especially when it comes to legalizing pot, is shifting very rapidly. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has wrapped up a trip to Mexico and Honduras, where he held talks with Central American leaders on regional security efforts and drug trafficking. Biden’s visit comes amid an emerging rift between the Obama administration and its Central American allies on the drug war. There is a growing belief among Central American leaders that decriminalization and legalization of some drugs could help reduce the power of drug cartels and reduce the bloodshed connected to the drug war.
Parliament has launched a new attempt to decriminalise the consumption of cannabis, four years after voters rejected a proposal for the full legalisation of the drug. The House of Representatives voted to impose a fine of SFr200 ($218) for the possession and consumption of up to ten grams of the substance instead of prosecuting the individuals. Supporters said a pragmatic, efficient and uniform sanctioning system was necessary to deal with a social reality.
Cannabis has been taking centre stage in recent weeks. Former attorneys-general and Vancouver mayors in British Columbia have called for regulation and taxation of the industry in an attempt to stop the violence of the illegal trade. At the same time, the Harper government continues to push for the passage of legislation that will mandate a six-month minimum term of imprisonment for anyone growing six plants or more.