Canada's war on drugs has caused serious harm, particularly for the nation's most vulnerable, according to a Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) policy paper. The report, A New Approach to Managing Psychoactive Substances, calls for the decriminalization of drugs such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine, as well as strategies to reduce harm and address the social conditions underlying problem substance use.
In February, the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that most of the 2006 drug law norms were unconstitutional. Following this pronouncement, at the end of May, the Court of Cassation decided that people sentenced and incarcerated under the illegitimate norms have the right to be resentenced. The decision may affect about 10.000 prisoners detained for cannabis crimes.
Retail marijuana sales for adults are now legal (at least at the state level) in Colorado and Washington. Next month, voters in Alaska and Oregon may decide to follow suit. It is nearly certain that marijuana legalization will make it onto the California ballot in 2016, during a presidential election season that will generate enormous interest among young voters. Robert MacCoun looks at options for designing a marijuana proposal.
The 43-year-old war on drugs had never seen such a barrage of opposition as it did in 2014, with successful marijuana legalization initiatives in several U.S. states, California’s historic approval of sentencing reform for low level drug offenders and world leaders calling for the legal regulation of all drugs — all of which cement the mainstream appeal of drug policy alternatives and offer unprecedented momentum going into 2015.
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.
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.
Weed is legal in at least some form in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Most allow it for medical use only. Colorado and Washington this year enacted laws that allow recreational use by adults. But more than two dozen states are considering new or expanded marijuana reform legislation, including complete legalization for adults, medical marijuana, hemp use and decriminalization. Which are the next five states likely to legalize marijuana?
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.
In Saint Vincent and across the Caribbean, marijuana is illegal, yet it is widely used, freely sold and openly puffed. It’s evidence of the shifting attitudes over pot. Now, for the first time, Caribbean leaders — much like a growing number of American and Latin American lawmakers — are considering loosening restrictions to control and capitalize on the popular crop.
At the first Cannabis Conference held at the University of the West Indies, stakeholders have called for the criminal records of persons convicted for smoking small amounts of ganja to be expunged and are calling for the laws to be amended to allow for the personal use of small amounts of ganja in private. But while they want ganja to be decriminalised for personal use by adults and for religious purposes, Government must maintain its ban on the smoking of all substances in public and must put in place safeguards and education programmes to reduce juvenile use and demand for ganja.
The West Africa Commission on Drugs says drug cartels are undermining the region by using it to transit cocaine. The commission, headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, says the cartels should be tackled but that punishing the personal use of drugs does not work. It argues that current policies incite corruption and provoke violence. Drug trafficking and consumption have become major issues in West Africa since the turn of the century. (See also: West Africa needs to look at partially decriminalising drugs, says thinktank)
The Jamaican government has approved proposed amendments to the law that will decriminalise the possession of small amounts of ganja. Justice Minister Mark Golding says the government will soon table a bill in Parliament that will seek to expunge the criminal records of persons convicted for possession of small amounts of ganja. Speaking at a Jamaica House press conference a short while ago, Golding said Cabinet has approved proposed changes to the Dangerous Drugs Act to make possession of up to two ounces (57 grams) or less a non-arrestable offence. (See also: Jamaica government announces major changes to drug laws)
The Institute of National Problematics of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala recently presented a new publication “Despenalization of drugs: Realities and Perspectives in Guatemala”. The new tendency towards legalization and/or decriminalization in the hemisphere stirred an internal debate about the need to revise drug policies in Guatemala towards policies with an emphasis on prevention and treatment of problematic use of drugs.
The Caribbean trade bloc Caricom has created a commission to study whether the region's roughly 15 million people should be allowed to use medical marijuana and how courts should handle possession of small amounts of the drug. Leaders said that the commission is expected to submit reports by Caricom's next summit, scheduled for February 2016. A recent preliminary report from Caricom found that decriminalizing medical marijuana could help boost the region's economy. (See also: Opposition says Jamaica does not need Caricom ganja comm)
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.
Smoking, growing, buying, selling or merely possessing cannabis is a criminal offence, according to America's federal government. Ask the states, however, and you will get almost 50 different answers. In 13 of them possession of the drug has been decriminalised, meaning that tokers face only minor penalties if caught. In 23 it has been legalised for medical use. And in four—including, following ballot initiatives earlier this month, Alaska and Oregon—cannabis has been legalised outright. In all only 22 states, fewer than half the total, continue to treat the drug as criminal contraband under all circumstances.
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.
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)
The war on cannabis seems to be slowly burning out. On June 12th Jamaica announced that it plans to decriminalise possession of small amounts of the drug. Several countries, including Mexico and Portugal, have already taken this step, and many others are considering it. A handful of other jurisdictions—so far only Uruguay and the states of Colorado and Washington—have taken a different approach, not decriminalising but instead legalising cannabis. Many people mistakenly use the terms “legalisation” and “decriminalisation” interchangeably. What is the difference?