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.
Colombia's Constitutional Court approved the government's proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana for personal use. Anyone caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana or one gram of cocaine for personal use may receive physical or psychological treatment depending on their state of consumption, but may not be prosecuted or detained, the court ruled.
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.
Colombia's Justice Minister, Ruth Stella Correa, has said a new drugs bill would decriminalise personal use of synthetic drugs, such as ecstasy. The proposal would replace current laws, which ban cocaine and marijuana, although people are not prosecuted for possessing small amounts. Colombia's legislation is being re-assessed in an attempt to tackle drug use, trafficking and related issues.
In September 2012, the mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, launched the first centre for drug addicts in the Bronx, a marginalised city-centre neighbourhood. Called the Medical Care Centre for Dependent Drug Users (Centro de Atención Médica a Drogodependientes - CAMAD), it is staffed by psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and nurses. The people given care in these centres are in an at-risk situation and socially excluded due to their high levels of drug dependency.
Remarkable drug policy developments are taking place in Latin America. This is not only at the level of political debate, but is also reflected in actual legislative changes in a number of countries. All in all there is an undeniable regional trend of moving away from the ‘war on drugs’. This briefing explains the background to the opening of the drug policy debate in the region, summarises the most relevant aspects of the ongoing drug law reforms in some countries, and makes a series of recommendations that could help to move the debate forward in a productive manner.
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.
Foreign minister Maria Angela Holguín’s statement of last Sunday 10 October is of great importance. According to this statement, Colombia should take the discussion about the drugs policy to a global level and to the UN’s Security Council. According to her criteria it doesn’t make sense that whilst certain developed countries decriminalize and legalize certain use, we continue to “imprison peasants who own half a hectare of coca leaf cultivation”.
Colombia's Supreme Court ruled against harsh punishments for small-time drug offenders, in a move towards easing up Colombia's zero-tolerance drug laws, which have achieved little in the fight against organized crime.