Uruguay has become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana. After nearly 12 hours of debate, senators gave the government-sponsored bill their historic final approval. The law allowing registered Uruguayans over 18 to buy up to 40g (1,4oz) of the drug a month is not expected to come into force before April.
Interview Sebastián Sabini: "Het gaat ons om een totaalaanpak. Legalisering moet samengaan met preventie, met voorlichting en een sterke naleving van de regels. Wiet moet geen commercieel product worden als Coca-Cola, waarvan de reclames je vertrellen dat je er mooi en gelukkig van wordt terwijl het ongezond is. Nederland is een voorbeeld, vooral vanwege de voorlichting. Maar jullie systeem heeft gaten. Omdat de teelt illegaal is."
A majority of Texas voters support marijuana legalization, according to a recent survey. Public Policy Polling found that 58 percent of Texans "support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol." Even more – 61 percent – were in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession and instead punishing violations with a civil citation. Texas law currently views possession of marijuana, even on a minute scale, as a criminal offense, punishable by $2,000 in fines and up to a year of jail time.
Latin America has emerged at the vanguard of efforts to promote debate on drug policy reform. For decades, Latin American governments largely followed the drug control policies and programs of Washington’s so-called war on drugs. Yet two parallel trends have resulted in a dramatic change in course: the emergence of left-wing governments that have challenged Washington’s historic patterns of unilateralism and interventionism and growing frustration with the failure of the prohibitionist drug control model put forward by the US government.
In the wake of the marijuana legalization victories in Colorado and Washington last November, and buoyed by a series of national public opinion polls showing support for pot legalization going over the tipping point, marijuana reform legislation is being introduced at state houses across the land at levels never seen before. According to a legislative activity web page maintained by the Marijuana Policy Project, decriminalization bills have been introduced in 10 states.
The exponential proliferation of the number of associations, clubs and other groups that distribute cannabis among their members and create new spaces for socialising, has surprised even the most optimistic advocates of more reasonable drug policies. In a short time, and in spite of those in government, civil society has provided a response to a problem that realpolitik has been unable to tackle.
US Attorney General Eric Holder told America to expect a decision "soon" on how he'll respond to the recent legalization of pot by Colorado and Washington state. Legislative committees in New Mexico and Hawaii approved bills to decriminalize marijuana possession and Oregon lawmakers introduced a legalization bill. Rhode Island legislators held a hearing on a bill to legalize and tax marijuana. In California, where Holder's Justice Department has spent months trying to shut down respected medical-pot dispensaries, a Field Poll showed that 67 percent of state voters oppose the move.
Partial reforms have their limits. Most drug crime is not cannabis-related. Moving from punishment to harm reduction may help drug users, but it leaves gangsters in control of supplies and revenues. Many countries still stick to prohibition. The votes in Colorado and Washington were hardly imaginable ten years ago and make deeper change likely. They weaken the Single Convention, the illegal trade, and the prohibition industry that feeds on it.
For forty years the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has formed the corner stone of drug policy in Britain. The emergence of new psychoactive substances (‘legal highs’) during the past fifteen years or so has challenged the drug control system. The arrival in 2012 of a new psychoactive substance on the market, on average, every six days raises questions about how best to protect young people from unknown and unsafe drugs. The Government is considering this challenge and we hope this Inquiry report will make a helpful contribution to their deliberations.
The all-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform undertook an inquiry into the implications of the arrival of "legal highs" – a new substance appeared on the UK market every week in 2012. The prime minister says the current policy is working. I wish it were. But as the use of cannabis has declined by a few percentage points over the past few years, the use of "legal highs" has soared. The position for drugs users is therefore more dangerous than it was a few years ago.