The status of cannabis in the UN drug conventions is controversial. It is now scheduled among the most dangerous substances. How and why did cannabis get in the conventions? Does it belong there? What are the options to review the status of cannabis according to current scientific data? Is making cannabis subject to a control regime similar to harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco a solution?
As an island that is viewed as the mecca of cannabis culture, many are surprised to learn that Jamaica is only now in the midst of reforming its cannabis laws. The cultivation, selling, and consumption of cannabis as all other drugs have been illegal since 1913. However, following a unanimous symbolic vote in the Jamaican House of Representatives last October, the Jamaican government announced in June 2014 that it would decriminalise marijuana possession for personal consumption and religious/medical use by the end of the year. In January 2015, Justice minister Mark Golding introduced a Bill that in addittion to decriminalizing the possession of ganja up to two ounces, it would establish a cannabis licensing authority to regulate cultivation, sale and distribution for medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes. The Bill passed both in Senate and House of Representatives on February 2015.
Social movements in southern Asia have been shaped by the social relations dominated by the elites of the south Asian societies who share some common features in terms of culture and ideology. The movements have become contested power games around the issues of class, caste/ethnicity, gender, region and development.
Argentina has been developing criminal laws on these substances since 1924, but their repressive aspects have become more pronounced since the 1970s. The growing persecution resulting from these laws has mainly fallen on drug users and minor players linked to trafficking activities.
Historically, Brazilian drug legislation has been strongly influenced by the UN drugs conventions. Under these conventions, Brazil committed to 'combating' drug trafficking and reducing consumption and demand through any means possible, including the most drastic one, criminal law. Moreover, the official commitment to the international narcotics monitoring system and the close diplomatic and trade ties between Brazil and the United States led to the adoption of a prohibitionist approach that was very much in line with the U.S. war on drugs.
Like in other countries in the region, drug control measures by the government of Ecuador have been modeled after the pressure and interests of the United States. Even though the country is an important hub for the transit of illicit drugs and chemical supplies, as well as for money laundering, trafficking is not perceived as a significant threat. This is also the case because the cultivation of coca is minimal compared to other countries in the region such as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Paradoxically, Ecuador has one of the most severe drug legislations in Latin America.
Chile is progressively reforming its drug laws, especially under Michelle Bachelet’s new administration. These proposals recognise that there is a growing international tendency to view drug policy in a new lens, one that is based upon health considerations and empirical research. Recent proposals include reassessing the categorisation of cannabis as a Class A drug and implementing regulations regarding the quantities that would be allowed for personal use.
The Central American region connecting North and South America has traditionally been an area with intensive trafficking routes, of drugs, weapons and people. Drugs trafficking routes over land and sea have existed for decades, transporting mainly cocaine from the Andean region to the United States and Mexico.
The current law prohibits drug use and punishes possession for personal use with internment and forced treatment. Domestically, a legal market for coca leaf has always existed and Bolivia is trying to change the international legal regime for the coca leaf.
Under Decree 126/89, the cultivation and production and the trafficking and transport of drugs are punishable as crimes, as is the illicit use and possession of drugs. Article 7 prohibits the production, planting, cultivation and gathering of plants or seeds that contain ingredients that may be considered narcotics or controlled substances.
As a result of a truce between the country’s main gangs (Maras), the number of murders in El Salvador so far in 2013 is down by about 45 per cent in comparison to the year before. Since El Salvador is one of the countries with the highest murder rates in the world (71 per 100,000 people in 2011), the truce represents a step forward in the eradication of street violence and, some believe, in the fight against the retail drug trade and trafficking.
Brazil is debating reform of current drug legislation. Changes to the Criminal Code are being discussed in Senate and the debate includes new articles on drugs. Several legal bills to reform the existing drug law are waiting to be reviewed.