Ecuador is going through a process of reform of its legislation on drugs and the related institutional structure. The government of Rafael Correa is pushing forward this process, which began in 2008 with a new constitution that led to the declaration of an amnesty for small-scale traffickers. In February 2014 parliament approved the Organic Criminal Procedures Code. This replaces the criminal offences section of Law 108, a piece of legislation infamous for its harshly disproportionate sentences and drive to prosecute. As a result of the amnesty and the new legislation, thousands of people were freed from prison. Al the beginning of 2015 the National Congress started to debate a proposed Organic Law on the Integrated Prevention of Drugs and the Use of Controlled Substances, a bill which seeks to replace what remains of the old law.
Up and down the Western Hemisphere, marijuana policy is a growing topic of discussion, and laws are starting to change. In 2014, retail marijuana stores opened in the states of Colorado and Washington, where anyone over 21 years old can purchase a wide variety of marijuana products.
For more than two decades, Maua enjoyed booming business propelled by the growth and sale of khat, known locally as miraa, a popular herb whose leaves and stems are chewed for the mild high they offer. But last year the UK, home to one of khat’s biggest markets, declared the stimulant a class C drug and banned all imports, prompting Maua’s rapid descent into economic purgatory.
Vancouver has approved new rules to license and regulate illegal marijuana stores, making it the first city in Canada to attempt to control the burgeoning market – and setting it on a collision course with the country’s federal government.
Medical marijuana has not been proven to work for many illnesses that state laws have approved it for, according to the first comprehensive analysis of research on its potential benefits. The strongest evidence is for chronic pain and for muscle stiffness in multiple sclerosis, according to the review, which evaluated 79 studies involving more than 6,000 patients. Evidence was weak for many other conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome and the authors recommend more research.
"When pure and administered carefully, [cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess,” wrote British physician John Russell Reynolds in 1890, praising the substance’s curative properties.
In contrast to other Central American countries, the possession of drugs for immediate personal use is not a criminal offence in Costa Rica. In August 2013 the cultivation, manufacture, transport and trafficking of drugs have all been made a criminal offence under the same article, which provides for a prison sentence of between 8 and 15 years without making any distinction between the offences. The government of Costa Rica supports the launch of an open international debate on the issue, but has declared itself against decriminalisation.
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.
Dr Paul Quigley, an emergency medicine specialist and clinical toxicologist at Wellington Hospital, says the legalisation of pure MDMA - the main ingredient in recreational drug ecstasy, which has euphoric effects - should be considered to protect users from other, more dangerous substances. He said MDMA had been around for about 30 years and was a prescription medicine used in the 1970s for psychiatric purposes - so it had been clinically tested on people. (See also: Should pure ‘ecstasy’ be regulated? – Expert reaction)
Legalising the medical use of cannabis has not led to a surge in the numbers of adolescents using it in the USA, according to new research that surprised its authors and will encourage those hoping for relaxation of the law elsewhere.
This briefing paper analyses the impact of drug policy on incarceration in São Paulo (Brazil). This research is expected to inform and assess some of the consequences of the current Brazilian drug policy, taking into account its impacts on prisoners’rights and on the criminal justice system as a whole.
The international drug control regime is facing the most profound challenge of its existence. Member states have for some time been experimenting with new responses to the ‘world drug problem’; however, the advent of legally regulated cannabis markets has resulted in a ratcheting up of these challenges to expose the system to new levels of strain. With the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem fast approaching, how will the international community make use of the opportunity it provides for a free and open debate?