Despite dogged opposition by conservatives, parliament has approved a proposal to impose a fine on consumers of small amounts of cannabis instead of opening formal criminal proceedings. However, the decision stops short of legalising the substance. The move, which brings Switzerland in line with other European countries that tolerate dope smoking in small amounts, comes four years after voters rejected a plan to decriminalise cannabis.
With three western American states mulling legalized marijuana and the Union of B.C. Municipalities set to debate it, a new group wants the province to stop enforcing the federal criminal ban on pot. Several prominent cannabis crusaders have drafted a proposed law, called the Sensible Policing Act, and are asking for a provincial commission to study the regulation and taxation of the demonized plant. The wished-for legislation is available on the group’s website: http://www.sensiblebc.ca/
There is no reliable evidence that tougher criminal sanctions deter drug use or offending. On the contrary, criminalisation worsens the health and wellbeing of drug users, increases risk behaviours, drives the spread of HIV, encourages other crime and discourages drug users from seeking treatment. A report by Australia21, Alternatives to Prohibition, subtitled Illicit drugs: how we can stop killing and criminalising young Australians, sets out the lessons learnt about the failed war on drugs from other countries, especially Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Portugal.
A report by a group of prominent Australians that recommends Australia rethink its criminalisation of illicit drugs has been backed by the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association. The report recommended that cannabis and ecstasy be decriminalised for people aged 16 and older, who are willing to be recorded on a national confidential user's register. Users would be able to purchase drugs from an approved supplier, likely a chemist.
Portugal's famously liberal drug policy has been held up as a model for other countries - Norway is considering adopting parts of it and countries as far afield as Argentina have expressed interest. But experts warn that budget cuts and the threat of more cuts to come - combined with an increase in hard drug abuse - risk turning it into a shadow of its former self. "We have a certain responsibility to maintain the essential despite the recession," said Joao Goulao, the national drugs agency chief. "Other countries do look at us and seek our expertise."
President Sebastián Piñera signed the new Drug and Alcohol Prevention Act into law on Monday, which sets up an educational program to warn schoolchildren against the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The president took the opportunity to break his silence over the renewed debate over drug decriminalization, taking a decidedly anti-decriminalization stance. "At a time when some are promoting the legalization of drugs, this administration is committed to fighting against it, not only for children but also the entire population," Piñera told reporters.
Portugal’s anti-drug policies have been gaining international visibility since this country's 2001 decision to eliminate all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs. Decriminalisation of drug consumption, still opposed by political sectors like the right, was made possible by “favourable public opinion…it arose from society,” where virtually every family had a member or friend with a drug abuse problem, says João Goulão president of this country’s Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction.
In the face of a renewed discussion on the possible decriminalization of marijuana in Chile, conservative politicians called for the revival of a constitutional reform bill Sunday that would punish politicians for illegal drug use. The bill, first approved in the Senate in September 2004, would remove politicians from holding a public office if they use illegal drugs.
Marijuana remains an illegal substance in Chile, but there are a growing number of shops in the country which sell cannabis products. A recent admission by Senator Fulvio Rossi that he occasionally smokes the drug has heated the debate over whether the drug should be legalised.
Should pot be outlawed, controlled, or just legalised? For anti-addiction experts, regulating consumption would counter a drug market associated with violent crime and lead to better public health and safety. But not everyone agrees. This year, Parliament agreed on the principle that adult cannabis users should be fined and not subjected to criminal charges. (See also: Growing cannabis at home)
Marijuana possession may be decriminalized in Belize as the Central American nation joins a list of countries from Mexico to Uruguay whose leaders have called for alternatives in the U.S.-led war on drugs. Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s government has appointed a committee to evaluate the decriminalization of up to 10 grams of marijuana. (See also: Support continues to flow for decriminalization of marijuana possession)
A host of academic, legal, health, political and social figures are joining together to back a campaign to decriminalise drug use in Brazil, as tens of thousands of consumers uninvolved in the drug trade are currently jailed. The “Drug Law: It’s Time to Change” campaign is an initiative launched by the Brazilian Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which aims to gather one million signatures in support of a bill that will be introduced in congress during the second half of 2013.
There is nothing politically easier in most countries than scapegoating drugs and drug users as the source of all social problems. Politicians can expect a boost in their popularity when they support repressive measures against drugs and are dismissive of public services for people who use illicit drugs.
Two-thirds of Canadians think the law should be changed so that people caught with small amounts of marijuana no longer face criminal penalties or fines, a new poll has found. The nationwide survey for Postmedia News and Global TV, which examined the state of Canadian values, revealed that the public is distinctly offside with the Harper government on the issue.
Colombia's Constitutional Court approved the government's proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana for personal use. Anyone caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana or one gram of cocaine for personal use may receive physical or psychological treatment depending on their state of consumption, but may not be prosecuted or detained, the court ruled.
We should decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use for the following simple reasons: (1) If users are addicted then they are ill, and criminal sanctions are an inappropriate way to deal with an illness; (2) If they are not addicted then criminalisation will almost always lead to greater harms to the user than the effects of the drug. For example, it can severely limit career options in public service and prevent travel to some countries particularly the USA.
People caught with small amounts of marijuana in Chicago will be ticketed instead of arrested under a new ordinance passed by the city council on Wednesday, as the third largest U.S. city became the latest to support more lenient penalties for using the drug. The council voted 43-3 in favor of the measure, which was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "If you had been white and/or privileged, a small amount of marijuana had already been decriminalized, because the only people who have been arrested for these types of crime have been black and brown individuals," said Alderman Howard Brookins.
Remarkable drug policy developments are taking place in Latin America. This is not only at the level of political debate, but is also reflected in actual legislative changes in a number of countries. All in all there is an undeniable regional trend of moving away from the ‘war on drugs’. This briefing explains the background to the opening of the drug policy debate in the region, summarises the most relevant aspects of the ongoing drug law reforms in some countries, and makes a series of recommendations that could help to move the debate forward in a productive manner.
Uruguay is planning a novel approach to fighting its rising crime: having its government sell marijuana to take drug profits out of the hands of dealers. Under the plan backed by President Jose Mujica's leftist administration, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana and only to adults who register on a government database, letting officials keep track of their purchases over time. Profits would reportedly go toward rehabilitating drug addicts.