In an online town hall session yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama suggested that, while he is not in favor of drug legalization, he does believe drugs ought to be treated as “more of a public health problem.” Obama went on to add: “On drugs, I think a lot of times we’ve been so focused on arrests, incarceration, interdiction, that we don’t spend as much time thinking about how do we shrink demand.” (See the video clip below for the president’s full remarks.)
Fifty years after signing the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and 40 years after the U.S. government declared a "war on drugs," many obstacles remain despite the partial successes of efforts to counter the problem. The Andean-United States Dialogue Forum, noted with concern how drug policy has monopolized the diplomatic and economic agenda between the Andean countries, contributing to tensions among the governments and impeding cooperation on other crucial priorities, such as safeguarding democratic processes from criminal networks.
Actuellement, l'usage de stupéfiants est puni d'une amende maximale de 3 750 euros et d'un an d'emprisonnement. Une proposition de loi, adoptée le 7 décembre 2011 par le Sénat, entend modifier ces sanctions. Au lieu d'être un délit, le premier usage - et lui seul - deviendrait une contravention, assortie d'une amende de 68 euros. C'est une "suite logique" aux conclusions d'un rapport publié en juillet 2011 par la mission parlementaire d'information sur les toxicomanies, précise Jacques Mézard, président radical du groupe Rassemblement démocratique et social européen (RDSE) au Sénat, et rapporteur du texte.
Should drugs be decriminalized? That this question is still being kicked around after decades of debate through the war on drugs is indicative of how drug policy has hit a wall. No victory was ever declared because drugs remain a scourge on society, with approximately 23 million Americans addicted to illegal and legal substances. This comes against the backdrop of an overcrowded U.S. prison system whose population is one-fifth drug offenders, and recent reforms in Europe oriented toward harm reduction rather than criminal justice. Having failed to eradicate or even make large inroads against drug use and with current policy unsustainable, America is now obligated to come up with a new approach.
Three former Latin American presidents have declared the US-led “war on drugs” a failure and called for new strategies focusing on treatment to replace a repressive approach they say is discredited. The former presidents of Colombia, Mexico and Brazil made their call at the launch of the Global Commission on Drugs Policies in Geneva this week. The three statesmen hope the new body will develop proposals that will move the global drugs debate away from prohibition and towards treating the issue as a public health problem.
The municipality of the Dutch city of Utrecht recently announced two scientific experiments on cannabis policy. One experiment will be to set up a closed club model for adult recreational cannabis users. Cannabis smokers will grow their own marijuana in a cooperative, a move which would go against the government's drive to discourage coffee shops. The other experiment concerns treatment for people who are vulnerable to psychotic disorders.
The General Assembly of Cannabis Users Association Pannagh denounces the disproportionate intervention of the Municipal Police of Bilbao against the association and demands the immediate withdrawal of the charges against the three members who were arrested last Monday, in recognition of the fact that they have not committed any crime, taking into account that Pannagh carries out its activities according to the jurisprudence regarding the ’shared consumption’ such as has been approved by the Provincial Tribunal of Bizkaia in its decision to withdraw the prosecution that was opened by the municipal police in 2005.
On August 2, 2011 the Minister of Justice presented to the Committee on Social Affairs of the Greek Parliament the changes proposed by the legislative committee to reform the drug laws. The basic reforms of the law include: the decriminalization of drug use. The proposal considers drug use as an act of self-harm and has to be addressed by the legislator in the same way as dependence of tobacco or alcohol which are not less dangerous and harmful to health but are not considered as crime.
Intercambios Civil Association and the Social Sciences School of the University of Buenos Aires launched the book “Encarcelamientos por delitos relacionados con estupefacientes en Argentina” (Imprisonment for drugs related offenses in Argentina) by Alejandro Corda on the 29th of August, 2011.
The organisers of a Czech petition for the legalisation of cannabis in medical treatment have asked Prime Minister Petr Necas to support the relevant changes in legislation. The petition committee, including doctors, patients and scientists, recalls that it does not seek the legalisation of marijuana for recreational use. Since its launch on August 16, the petition has been signed by almost 5,000 people.
The Czech Ministry of Health has indicated that it will take marijuana off the list of banned substances and allow it to be prescribed by doctors for its medical effects. “By the end of this year we will submit to parliament an amended law on addictive substances which will move marihuana from the list of banned substances to the list of those which can be prescribed,” Deputy Health Minister Martin Plíšek pledged.
Dame Judi Dench, Sir Richard Branson, and Sting have joined an ex-drugs minister and three former chief constables in calling for the decriminalisation of the possession of all drugs. The high-profile celebrities together with leading lawyers, academics, artists and politicians have signed an open letter to David Cameron to mark this week's 40th anniversary of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. The letter, published in a full-page advertisement in The Guardian, calls for a "swift and transparent" review of the effectiveness of current drugs policies.
Faced with both a public health crisis and a public relations disaster, Portugal’s elected officials took a bold step. They decided to decriminalize the possession of all illicit drugs — from marijuana to heroin — but continue to impose criminal sanctions on distribution and trafficking. The goal: easing the burden on the nation’s criminal justice system and improving the people’s overall health by treating addiction as an illness, not a crime.
Criminal charges will only be brought against individuals caught growing or manufacturing drugs or using them in public, according to a draft law presented by the Justice Ministry on Wednesday, which says that the possession of a small quantity of drugs for personal use will be decriminalized. (See also: Drug law reform in Greece)
Top government officials will review recommendations to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal and religious use in Jamaica. Six Cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Bruce Golding's administration will evaluate a 2001 report by the National Commission for Ganja -- as marijuana is known locally. The commission, which included academics and doctors and was appointed by a government led by the current opposition, argued that the drug was "culturally entrenched" in Jamaica and that moderate use had no negative health effects on most users.
The case of the Australian boy arrested on drug charges in Bali offers the opportunity to review our nation's own response to drug use, both here and abroad. While empathy for the boy's family is warranted and genuine, the case should also raise the question of what would happen to someone in Australia caught with a similar small amount of cannabis or other illicit drug.
Liberal Democrats are expected to call for an independent inquiry into the decriminalisation of possession of all drugs. A motion to be put at the party's annual conference next month is likely to be passed. It would be the first government-sponsored inquiry into decriminalisation, but is unlikely to have the support of David Cameron who has hardened his approach to drugs after being a past advocate of more liberal legislation as a member of the home affairs select committee.
Health experts in Portugal say that Portugal's decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked. "There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal," said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction. A report published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said Portugal had dealt with this issue "in a pragmatic and innovative way."