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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
In 2009, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, sent a letter to the General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, in which the Government of Bolivia proposed to amend article 49 paragraphs 1 c) and 2 e) of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. From Bolivia´s point of view, the international community holds in its hands a historic opportunity to correct a misconception regarding coca leaf chewing by eliminating both paragraphs of the Single Convention.
Global drug policy must move away from stigmatizing and criminalizing users and focus on the public health issues at stake, panelists concluded at the third drug policy debate hosted by CEU’s School of Public Policy and the Open Society Foundations’ Global Drug Policy Program on April 11. Panelists expressed hope that the current momentum in this direction will result in significant changes at the United Nations drug policy summit slated for 2016.
Registered voters heading to the polls this fall for elections in Colorado, Washington, and perhaps California will have a chance to enact historic cannabis legalization in 2012. A Colorado group said it will file 155,000 signatures with the state on January 6 — enough to qualify the group's recreational cannabis legalization and tax initiative for the November ballot. A group in the state of Washington said on December 29 that it filed at least 355,000 signatures. And California?
Legislators in Mexico City, the largest city in North America, are preparing to push through certain measures that would decriminalize and regulate the consumption of marijuana in the Mexican capital, a move that may speed pot legalization elsewhere in the continent. Proposals include the setting up of cannabis clubs to grow herb for their members and tolerance of anyone carrying up to 30 grams, or just over an ounce, of marijuana.
In December, Uruguay became the first nation in the world to legislate for the production, sale and state regulation of marijuana. Many hope that when the law takes full effect next year, fewer people will use a cheap, highly addictive cocaine derivative called "pasta base". By allowing adults to grow their own cannabis or buy a maximum of 40g a month from a pharmacy, supporters of the new law believe it will separate the marijuana market from more problematic drugs.
Medical marijuana advocates are hoping state governments can succeed where their efforts have failed by asking federal authorities to reclassify pot as a drug with medical use. Recently, Colorado became the fourth state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a narcotic in the same league as heavyweight painkillers including oxycodone. The governors of Washington and Rhode Island filed a formal petition with the agency in November, and Vermont signed onto that request shortly afterward.
In 2001, Canada became the first country to adopt a formal system to regulate the medicinal use of marijuana — the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations. The policy allowed people suffering from terminal illnesses or severe conditions such as epilepsy, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and cancer to use the drug if it eased their symptoms. Some people would be able to grow marijuana themselves under strict guidelines.
The leaves of kratom, a native of Southeast Asia in the coffee family, are used to relieve pain and improve mood as an opiate substitute and stimulant. The herb is also combined with cough syrup to make a popular beverage in Thailand called "4x100." Because of its psychoactive properties, kratom is illegal in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia. Thailand is considering legalizing kratom as a safer alternative for meth addicts, and U.S. researchers are studying its potential to help opiate abusers kick the habit without withdrawal side effects.
A small Dutch city less than 20 kilometres from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport has become the hub of Europe's sales of khat, a plant chewed for its stimulant qualities, soon to be banned in the Netherlands. In a discreet warehouse tucked away in the city of Uithoorn, around a hundred Somalis and Yemenis were haggling over the latest delivery: a tonne of khat. But 15 of the European Union's 27 states and Norway have already listed khat as an illegal narcotic and the Netherlands too announced earlier this month it would ban khat.
The UK could become a hub for smuggling the herbal stimulant khat, European police and politicians have warned. The Netherlands is the latest country to outlaw the sale of the plant, which is now banned in sixteen EU member states and Norway. Khat is freely sold in the UK and observers say the UK's isolated stance could make it the main base for Europe's khat trade. The British government has commissioned a new review of khat use.
Twelve years ago, Portugal eliminated criminal penalties for drug users. Since then, those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or heroin go unindicted and possession is a misdemeanor on par with illegal parking. Experts are pleased with the results. Portugal has stopped prosecuting users. The substances listed in Law 30/2000 are still illegal in Portugal -- "Otherwise we would have gotten into trouble with the UN," drug policy coordinator João Goulão explains -- but using these drugs is nothing more than a misdemeanor, much the same as a parking violation.
São Paulo’s Cracolândia was Brazil’s first and is still its biggest. It is home to 2,000 addicts. But most Brazilian cities now have similar districts. Recent studies put the country’s crack-using population at 1m-1.2m, the world’s largest. Some city governments have used strong-arm tactics against the crack epidemic—with little effect other than to fill prisons, which have more than twice as many inmates as a decade ago.
Some European countries prescribe heroin for the most severe cases of addiction. Patients taking heroin are less likely to use illicit drugs and drop out of treatment than those who use methadone, a substitute. Vancouver’s eagerness to follow is not surprising. It has long had Canada’s most liberal drug policies, and it has a big problem. Addicts congregate in Downtown Eastside, two derelict blocks right next to tourist attractions and the financial district. In the late 1990s the city had the highest rate of HIV infection outside sub-Saharan Africa.