Brazil is debating reform of current drug legislation. Changes to the Criminal Code are being discussed in Senate and the debate includes new articles on drugs. Several legal bills to reform the existing drug law are waiting to be reviewed.
Argentina has been developing criminal laws on these substances since 1924, but their repressive aspects have become more pronounced since the 1970s. The growing persecution resulting from these laws has mainly fallen on drug users and minor players linked to trafficking activities.
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 backbone of the United Nations drug control system consists of three UN Drug Conventions. The prohibition of potentially harmful substances has its origin in the desire to protect human well-being. However, the way in which the global regime was set up decades ago and the escalation of repression it has brought about since, has been an historical mistake increasing rather than diminishing the problems. There is no point now in dreaming about how the world might have looked without it, or deluding ourselves that all the problems could be solved by scrapping the conventions. The challenge is to create the political space which would allow a reform process to move ahead. A process guided by pragmatism, open-mindedness and evaluation of practices on the basis of costs and benefits; providing leeway for experimentation and freedom to challenge the wisdom of the existing conventions.
Ecuador has entered a new era in drug policy and legislation. Twenty-five years after the last major legal reform, brought about by the famed Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Law (Ley de Sustancias Estupefacientes y Psicotrópicas, Law 108), which took effect on September 17, 1990, the National Assembly is about to debate—for the second and final time—the draft Law on Prevention of Drugs and Use or Consumption of Substances Classified as Subject to Oversight (Ley de Prevención de Drogas y Uso y Consumo de Sustancias Catalogadas Sujetas a Fiscalización.)
Analia Silva, an Afro-Ecuadorian woman in her late 40s, says that getting a job in Ecuador was really difficult for her because she did not know how to read or write, and she continuously faced racial and age discrimination. Jobless, desperate and being the sole provider of her two children, she started selling small amounts of drugs to make ends meet. She was caught within months and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
In recent years of global debate on policies and strategies on controlled drugs, the European institutions (European Commission and Council, and the EMCDDA) and member states have broadly been a progressive and civilizing factor in pushing for balanced, evidence based and humane drug policies and programmes. However, just when the wider global debate is shifting in accordance with these principles, and there are real political opportunities to create more balanced, humane and effective drug policies, there are worrying signs that the European institutions are taking a wrong turn – the vision and leadership on this issue is notably absent, and some of the more recent positions taken seem to indicate a return to the simplistic messages and priorities of the failed policies of the past.
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.
Uruguay has one of the most advanced drug policies on the continent. In Uruguay, the law does not criminalize drug use or possession of drugs for personal use. In addition, in recent years its national drug policies have prioritized the prosecution of medium and large-scale traffickers rather than focusing resources and energy on small-time dealers who are easily replaced. This country study examines the scope of the legislation, the policies developed and how the normative and policy frameworks find expression in Uruguay’s prison system, with a special focus on the population incarcerated for drug-related offenses.
State-level cannabis reforms have exposed the inability of the United States to abide by the terms of the legal bedrock of the global drug control system. It is calls for a conversation the US federal government wishes to avoid. The result is a new official position on the UN drugs treaties that, despite its seductively progressive tone, serves only to sustain the status quo and may cause damage beyond drug policy.
State-level cannabis reforms, which gathered steam this month, have exposed the inability of the United States to abide by the terms of the legal bedrock of the global drug control system; the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This is something that should force a much-needed conversation about reform to long- standing international agreements. But while ostensibly 'welcoming' the international drug policy reform debate, it is a conversation the US federal government actually wishes to avoid.
TNI’s Martin Jelsma participated in the inaugural meeting in Rio de Janeiro of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracyon April 30, 2008. Prominent members of the Commission are three Latin American former presidents: Fernando Henrique Cardoso from Brazil, César Gaviria from Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo from Mexico.
"It is time to develop a proper Latin American response that is detached from the ideology from the United States that has been common in the past decade," Martin Jelsma told the meeting. "It is potentially a good time to try because politically there is now more distance to US policies in a growing part of Latin America and to US domination in general."
The fifth meeting of the Informal Drug Policy Dialogues in Latin America took place in Rio de Janeiro, and was organized by WOLA and TNI, in cooperation with the Department of Mental Health of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice of Brazil. The discussion focused on the UNGASS review process and the Political Declaration to be adopted at the high-level segment of the 52nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on March 11-12, 2009. The dialogue focused on three key issues: (1) Latin American Perspectives on the Political Declaration; (2) The Effectiveness of the Conventions: The Case of Latin America; and (3) Human Rights and Policies Related to Drug Law Enforcement.
Since 1996, the TNI Drugs & Democracy programme has been analysing the trends in the illegal drugs market and in drug policies globally. The programme has gained a reputation worldwide as one of the leading international drug policy research institutes and as a serious critical watchdog of UN drug control institutions, in particular the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
An October statement on drug control from the US State Department has prompted much comment and speculation at home and abroad. Delivered by Ambassador William Brownfield, the ‘Brownfield Doctrine’, as it has been named by some commentators, lays out a four pillar approach the United States will follow in matters of international drug control.