Cannabis is the most widely produced and consumed illicit substance globally. A significant number of states have long engaged in soft defection from the UN drug control regime in relation to tolerant policies on the personal possession, cultivation and use of cannabis. Recently, there has been growing debate within political circles on the benefits of regulated cannabis markets. This has been driven by a number of factors, including the continuing illegality of supply, the associated and often violent involvement of criminal elements and the use of finite criminal justice resources. In this section you will find an overview of our most recent blogs on the issue.
An unprecedented one-year comparative study of the drug laws and prison systems in eight Latin American countries - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay - will be released on December 9, 2010, by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
Systems Overload: Drug Laws and Prisons in Latin America is the first major study to explore the way drug laws have contributed to prison overcrowding, analyze who is imprisoned on drug charges, and evaluate the impact of incarceration on people's lives, their families and their communities. Based on the available data, each country-study presents and analyzes statistics on the situation in the prisons, including levels of over-crowding; the percentage of prisoners behind bars on drug charges; the percentage of those who are consumers, low-level offenders or bigger traffickers; and the level of involvement in the drug trade of those in jail.
Over the past several decades, Latin America has seen penalties for drug crimes—even low-level selling—skyrocket. And in many Latin American countries, non-violent drug offenses receive significantly longer sentences than many violent crimes, such as homicide and rape. A new study of criminal legislation explores this phenomenon in seven Latin American countries (Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina).
For press inquiries, or to be added to our mailing list, please contact Kristel Mucino, Communications Coordinator for the TNI/WOLA Drug Law Reform Project:
A comparative study on the impact of drug policies on the prison systems of eight Latin American countries – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay – reveals that drug laws have contributed to the prison crises these countries are experiencing. The drug laws impose penalties disproportionate to many of the drug offenses committed, do not give sufficient consideration to the use of alternative sanctions, and promote the excessive use of preventive detention. The study Systems Overload: Drug Laws and Prisons in Latin America, published today by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), found that the persons who are incarcerated for drug offenses tend to be individuals caught with small amounts of drugs, often users, as well as street-level dealers.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) have learned that the United States is moving to oppose, as soon as this week, Bolivia’s formal request to remove the obligation to ban the chewing of coca leaves— an indigenous practice dating back more than 2,000 years. TNI and WOLA strongly encourage countries to support Bolivia’s proposal, which is a legitimate request based on scientific evidence and respect for cultural and indigenous rights.
Bolivia would continue its campaign to remove from a United Nations convention a ban on coca leaf chewing and take its case to the Economic and Social Council, if necessary, Pablo Solón, the country’s Permanent Representative said today at a Headquarters press conference.
The United Nations should overhaul the operations of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the quasi judicial body that monitors states’ implementation of their obligations under the UN drug conventions. The Board ignores UN policies and conventions which recognize the need to provide humane treatment to people addicted to injection drugs, according to a recent commentary in medical journal The Lancet.
Na een lange periode van pragmatisme en gedurfde vernieuwingen van het drugsbeleid, waarmee Nederland ook internationaal een pioniersrol innam, is er – zoals de Commissie Van de Donk constateerde – al jarenlang sprake van beleidsverwaarlozing. Die feitelijke stilstand dreigt met de huidige kabinetsplannen om te slaan naar achteruitgang. Er zijn een aantal goede redenen om daarover ernstig bezorgd te zijn, niet alleen ten behoeve van de verworvenheden hier in Nederland, maar ook bezien vanuit recente internationale ontwikkelingen.
There is no reliable evidence that tougher criminal sanctions deter drug use or offending. On the contrary, criminalisation worsens the health and wellbeing of drug users, increases risk behaviours, drives the spread of HIV, encourages other crime and discourages drug users from seeking treatment. A report by Australia21, Alternatives to Prohibition, subtitled Illicit drugs: how we can stop killing and criminalising young Australians, sets out the lessons learnt about the failed war on drugs from other countries, especially Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Portugal.
Today the Plurinational State of Bolivia can celebrate a rightful victory, as the country can become formally a party again to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, but without being bound by its unjust and unrealistic requirement that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished.” This represents the successful conclusion of an arduous process in which Bolivia has sought to reconcile its international treaty obligations with its 2009 Constitution, which obliges upholding the coca leaf as part of Bolivia’s cultural patrimony.
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.
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) released a new short film in their excellent series on the proceedings of the 2008 Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). In "Coca Leaf: The Heritage of the Andes" Felipe Cáceres, the Vice Minister of Social Defence of Bolivia is interviewed. He explains the traditional use of the coca leaf and rejects the controversial statements of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in its 2007 annual report calling on the Bolivian and Peruvian governments to eliminate the use of coca leaf contrary to the 1961 Single Convention and to abolish coca chewing and coca tea.
Legalisation of cannabis is making slow but unstoppable progress across much of the developed world, many experts believe, following the end of prohibition in two US states. In Amsterdam, long famous for its coffee shops, international experts gathering to discuss cannabis regulation said the international conventions, once so heavily policed by the US, would now be increasingly flouted. Already many countries, most notably the Netherlands and Spain, have bypassed the rules.
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?
Decriminalisation is only half the answer. As long as supplying drugs remains illegal, the business will remain a criminal monopoly. Jamaica’s gangsters will continue to enjoy total control over the ganja market. They will go on corrupting police, murdering their rivals and pushing their products to children. People who buy cocaine in Portugal face no criminal consequences, but their euros still end up paying the wages of the thugs who saw off heads in Latin America. For the producer countries, going easy on drug-users while insisting that the product remain illegal is the worst of all worlds.
We are currently witnessing renewed attempts to open a debate on alternatives to the current drug control policies in Latin America. The failure of present drug control policies and the disproportionate social, economic, and political costs have led academics, advocates, and officials to search for approaches that promise to be both more humane and more effective.
Thursday, March 15, 13:15 – 14:45 in the Mozart Room, Vienna International Centre (VIC Restaurant - Ground Floor, F Building)
Latin American countries are turning to Europe for lessons on fighting drugs after souring on the prohibition-style approach of the violent and costly U.S.-led war on drugs. Until recently, most Latin American countries had zero-tolerance rules on drugs inspired by the United States. But now countries from Brazil to Guatemala are exploring relaxing penalties for personal use of narcotics, following examples such as Spain and Portugal that have channeled resources to prevention rather than clogging jails.