Despite efforts by governments in Latin America, illicit drugs continue to provide one of the largest incomes for criminal organizations, enabling them to penetrate and corrupt political and social institutions.
While in the Americas cannabis policy reform is taking off, Europe seems to be lagging behind. At the level of national governments denial of the changing policy landscape and inertia to act upon calls for change reigns. At the local level, however, disenchantment with the current cannabis regime gives rise to new idea.
Modern use of the coca leaf in Argentina provides a series of examples that could contribute to dispelling many of the myths that have polarized debate about the subject over the last few years. Argentine coca consumption does not fit commonly held preconceptions on the subject. Furthermore, the social acceptance and legitimacy of the habit has created an absurd situation in which the sale and possession of coca leaf for consumption is legal, but the supply and wholesale purchase of it are prohibited, and therefore part of an illegal circuit.
The opening in September 2012 of the first centre for drug addicts in Bogota is a welcome first step towards more humane and effective drug policies in Colombia’s capital city, but to be effective needs to be integrated into proper overall drugs strategy.
There is an undeniable regional trend of moving away from the ‘war on drugs’ in Latin America. This briefing explains the background, summarises the state of ongoing drug law reforms, and makes recommendations to move the debate forward.
Proportionality is one of the key principles of the rule of law aiming to protect people from cruel or inhumane treatment. The principle has been established in international and regional human rights agreements and many countries have adopted reflections of it in their constitution or penal code. Its application to drug-related offences is firstly the responsibility of the legislators, in defining the level of penalisation of certain behaviours.
A growing number of nations are developing policies that shift away from the prohibition-oriented failed approach to drugs control. Ultimately however nations will need to reform the overall UN based global drug control framework of which practically all nations are a part.
To date, the approaches to regulation have varied between nations, both with respect to the nature and specificity of the measures taken and their intended outcome. Such diversity appropriately reflects the marked differences in the existing drug use problems and public health approaches to addressing such issues between nations.
In 2007, the Government of New Zealand entrusted an independent agency, the National Law Commission, to review the country’s drug law. New Zealand’s approach to drug law reform may provide lessons for other countries.
This paper discusses the “substance-oriented approach” Dutch authorities implemented to to scare off potential small-scale cocaine smugglers. The focus was on the drugs, rather than the couriers, and on incapacitating the smuggling route, rather than deterrence by incarceration.
In August 2009, the Argentina Supreme Court declared legislation criminalizing drug possession for personal consumption as unconstitutional. This briefing discusses the background of that decision, the small steps taken since, but argues that there is still much to do before a genuine reform agenda can be implemented.
Sentencing for drug offences in England and Wales has recently undergone a wide-sweeping review and public consultation. The purpose of this report is to examine and evaluate this mechanism for law reform, without the need for legislative reform, and to consider the specific discussion around sentencing for drug offences which it has led to.
In December 2009, the Congress in Colombia passed a reform to the 1991 Constitution, which considered the possession and consumption of certain quantities of drugs for personal use legal, to enact constitutional prohibition. This briefing shows the changes that this constitutional amendment entails and evaluates the principle potential consequences.
In August 2009, Mexico adopted a new law against small-scale drug dealing, which introduces some significant advances in key subjects, such as the recognising of and distinguishing between user, drug addict and dealer. However it still has significant flaws in continuing to treat demand and supply of drugs as a criminal and market phenomenon that are likely to undermine its successful application.
This report is a personal response from the author on the issue of Drug Policy and The Courts. A year ago, in the author’s professional practice, he felt duty-bound to make a decision that overturned Brazilian case-law and ran contrary to domestic legislation as regards possession of controlled substances.
At the end of 2008, about 1,500 persons were released who were in Ecuadorian prisons sentenced for drug trafficking. The measure, known as “pardon for mules,” singled out a specific group of prisoners who were victims of indiscriminate and disproportionate legislation that was in effect for many years.