In Latin America’s latest challenge to Washington’s “war on drugs,” Ecuador has quietly begun releasing thousands of convicted cocaine smugglers. The move is a result of the country’s new criminal law, which took effect August 10. It treats “drug mules” who commit the low-profit, high-risk offense more as vulnerable people exploited by cartels than as hardened criminals. Around 500 mules have already been freed and at least another 2,000 are expected to follow, says Jorge Paladines, national coordinator of the Public Defender’s Office.
An increasing proportion of Britons favours a more liberal approach to drugs and would support decriminalisation strategies, according to a comprehensive survey commissioned by the Observer. An overwhelming majority believes that the so-called "war on drugs" is futile, with 84% saying that the decades-long campaign by law enforcement agencies against the global narcotics trade can never be won. The proportion of Britons who believe certain drugs should be decriminalised has risen from 27% to 39% since 2008. (See also: Britain divided: how we really feel about drugs)
With the Organization of American States due to hold a special general assembly in Guatemala on illicit drugs in less than a week, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza insisted there now exists "regional consensus" regarding drug use and trafficking throughout the hemisphere. Insulza said the 35 OAS member nations no longer see the drug problem as a public safety matter but rather as a public health issue. Authorities also want alternatives to jailing drug addicts, he said.
Jamaica is known internationally for its marijuana, where its use is culturally entrenched despite being legally banned for 100 years. Previous moves to decriminalize the drug failed to advance because officials feared they would violate international treaties and bring sanctions from Washington. With a number of U.S. states relaxing their marijuana laws Jamaica is rethinking its position. Jamaica’s Cabinet has approved a plan to decriminalize marijuana, including for religious purposes, and legislators are expected to authorize it before the end of the year.
The upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in 2016 is an unprecedented opportunity to review and re-direct national drug control policies and the future of the global drug control regime. As diplomats sit down to rethink international and domestic drug policy, they would do well to recall the mandate of the United Nations, not least to ensure security, human rights and development.
Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice, is broaching the prospect of a marijuana bill that would verge on decriminalization. Well, better late than never. If such a bill were to become law, Canadian police would be able to ticket anyone smoking pot in public. But possession wouldn’t necessarily be a crime. It is a waste of the police’s time to criminally charge people for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs have said as much. (See also: Looser marijuana laws still possible, Peter MacKay says)
Schweizer Städte wollen mit der Cannabisabgabe experimentieren. Doch auf eidgenössischer Ebene scheint eine rechtliche Änderung unwahrscheinlich. «Die internationalen Entwicklungen, vor allem die Liberalisierungen des Cannabiskonsums in Colorado und Uruguay, haben neue Dynamik in die Diskussion gebracht», sagt Sandro Cattacin, Leiter der Genfer Projektgruppe für Cannabisvereine. In den Vereinen sollen KonsumentInnen eine täglich auf zehn Gramm begrenzte Menge erwerben können. Genf steht nicht allein: Eine Arbeitsgruppe aus Basel, Zürich, Bern und Genf trifft sich regelmässig.
In Canada there appears to be "just a lack of enthusiasm on the part of police" to enforce possession laws."There's a huge amount of discretion. It's kind of the new vagrancy charge, really," said Neil Boyd, professor and director of Simon Fraser University's school of criminology. A phone survey conducted by Ipsos Reid between Jan. 30 and Feb. 7, 2014, suggested that 70 per cent of 3,000 Canadians polled want to see pot possession either legalized or decriminalized.
The attorney general, Patrick Atkinson, must move with dispatch to determine, as the justice minister, Mark Golding, suggests, whether the police can proceed by issuing summonses to, rather than arresting, persons who are to be prosecuted for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The idea makes sense in the face of the Government's declared policy to decriminalise ganja use, but has added urgency following last week's death, apparently the result of a severe beating while in a Montego Bay police lock-up, of Mario Deane, who was arrested for a ganja cigarette. (See also: Ganja decision should not be based on votes)
A call has been made for the government to declare an amnesty on all arrests for the possession of under one pound of marijuana. The plea from the Ganja Future Growers Producers Association was made following the death of Mario Deane who was in the custody of the State. Deane was arrested and held at the Barnett Street police station lock-up in western Jamaica for possession of a marijuana spliff. While in custody, he was beaten and died in hospital a few days later.
Around 2,000 inmates convicted of low-level drug offences could be released in Ecuador under a new criminal code, as countries across the Americas slowly move away from harsh punishments for minor drug crimes. In an interview with El Comerico, Ecuador's chief public defender, Ernesto Pazmiño, said that thousands of people convicted of drug possession, street sales or acting as "mules" (couriers) will have their cases reassessed after the country's new Integrated Penal Code comes into force.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) call for the decriminalisation of drugs will be taken up by Danish politicians in the autumn. In the WHO report, which focused on international HIV prevention, the UN agency encourages countries to stop criminalising the use of drugs. “Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalise injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration,” the report read. (See also: Liberal Alliance: Legalise all drug possession)
A strong majority of Canadians think the federal government should either legalize marijuana or decriminalize the possession of small amounts, according to a Department of Justice poll, kept secret by the Conservatives for months. Of the 3,000 respondents, 37.3 per cent said the government should legalize marijuana, while 33.4 per cent said the possession of small amounts should be decriminalized. Only 13.7 per cent of respondents supported the status quo, while 12 per cent said they believe Ottawa should impose harsher penalties.
Jamaica, Uruguay, Colorado, Washington—more and more places are rebelling against the UN conventions that established the criminalisation of narcotics half a century ago. But the latest organisation to weigh in against the UN’s line is rather surprising. It is a branch of the UN itself. The report, Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations, published by the World Health Organisation, an agency of the United Nations, makes a discreet but clear call to decriminalise drugs. And not just cannabis—the report goes as far as recommending the decriminalisation of injecting drugs, which implies the harder sort.
On July 8th Washington became the second state after Colorado to offer recreational pot-smokers a chance to buy weed legally at a local store. Marijuana is still illegal in most of America. But there are substantial activities towards more liberal policies. In 23 states the medicinal use of marijuana is allowed and more states are considering legalisation. Oregon and Alaska will vote on legalisation in November; Floridians will decide on permitting medical use. President Barack Obama has chosen to take a hand’s-off approach to the issue of legalisation in Washington and Colorado. Yet if a drug hawk were to succeed President Obama in 2016, a clampdown on pot could well be revived.