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.
“Next year we hope to evaluate the implementation of a new Drug Law”. Graciela Touzé, president of Intercambios, expressed this in the closing remarks of the 10th Conference on Drug Policy that took place this past June 7th in the Senate of the Nation. Throughout the conference it was clear that the officials at the national level are in agreement over decriminalization, that the representatives have come to a consensus on a proposal, and that there exist serious weaknesses in the development of treatments for drug users.
Intercambios Civil Association and the Social Sciences School of the University of Buenos Aires launched the book “Encarcelamientos por delitos relacionados con estupefacientes en Argentina” (Imprisonment for drugs related offenses in Argentina) by Alejandro Corda on the 29th of August, 2011.
In August 2009, the Argentina Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional legislation that criminalized drug possession for personal consumption. This briefing discusses the background of that decision and the small steps in the right direction that have been taken since, to conclude that there is still much to do before a reform agenda can be implemented.
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna in March 2010 was a rather uneventful event. One of the most controversial issues were the comments of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in its 2009 Annual Report on the trend to decriminalize possession for personal use in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Both Argentina and Mexico voiced strong objections on the INCB remarks.
Intercambios Asociación Civil applauds the attempt of the Supreme Court Judges to distance the criminal law from drug users, but warns that attention will have to be paid to how judges in the lower courts and police apply these criteria.
On August 25, 2009, Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina unanimously declared to be unconstitutional the second paragraph of Article 14 of the country’s drug control legislation (Law Number 23,737), which punishes the possession of drugs for personal consumption with prison sentences ranging from one month to two years (although education or treatment measures can be substitute penalties). According to the Court, the unconstitutionality of the article is applicable to cases of drug possession for personal consumption that does not affect others.
The Argentine Supreme court ruling that declares unconstitutional the imposition of criminal sanctions for the possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use represents an important step toward distinguishing between drug use and drug trafficking.