Summary of Drugs & Democracy Activities, April - June 2015

15 ဇူလိုင်လ 2015

Drug law reform continues developing in the right direction in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. In Jamaica, for example, a law legalizing the cultivation and consumption of ganja for medicinal, religious and research purposes came into force, as well as the decriminalisation of possession for personal use.  Jamaica also spoke out at the UN Thematic Debate in New York. On May 7th, the minister addressed the UN High Level Thematic Debate on international drug policy, highlighting Jamaica’s perspectives on drug control policies and participating in a debate that encourages open and inclusive discussions. Amongst the outcomes Jamaica would like to see from UNGASS is “the establishment of an Expert Advisory Group to review the UN drug policy control architecture, its system-wide coherence, its treaty inconsistencies and its legal tension with cannabis regulations.”

Meanwhile, in Belize,  a governmental committee produced a report recommended “That it not be a criminal offence for anyone to be found in possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana.”

In Chile, the Congressional Health Committee approved a bill that would modify the country’s current drug law – Law 20,000 – that would allow up to six cannabis plants for cultivation per household, and medicinal cannabis use and possession of up to 10 grams for personal consumption. The Chamber of Deputies approved recently the bill, putting Chile closer to become the second country in Latin America to legalize marijuana, after Uruguay.

After many decades of aerial spraying on illicit crops, the Colombian government finally announced the end of the eradication programmes with glyphosate. The country has also removed the restriction to commercialize coca products from indigenous territories.

Costa Rica amended article 77 of the Law 8204 in order to reduce sentences, and give access to other legal benefits to women prosecuted for a specific drug offence (smuggling drugs into prison) and who are in clear conditions of poverty and vulnerability. The expansion of benefit to other groups and to broader criteria is currently in debate. Congress is also preparing for a debate on a bill that seeks to regulate the medicinal and industrial cannabis.

With the 2008 Constitution and the approval of the Criminal Integral Code (Código Orgánico Integral Penal, COIP) Ecuador had prohibited any form of criminalization of drug users. The Code also differentiates between different types of traffic activities, introducing proportionality in sentencing by establishing sentencing scales according to quantities and types of substance. With the approved COIP, the Office of Public Defence reviewed sentenced people' s cases of the period between the 2008 amnesty and the enactment of the new law, resulting in the release from jail of at least 1,065 people. [More on the reform in Ecuador]




Drug Law Reform in Latin America


Dialogue on Drug Policy and Human Rights in Costa Rica – 22-26 June. The Dialogue was an initiative by the Asociación Costarricense para el Estudio e Intervención en Drogas (ACEID), Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas (ICD) and Ministerio de la Presidencia. Pien Metaal hold a keynote on trends and characteristics of incarceration for drug offences, and spoke on a panel about the Dutch drug policy. She also attended a meeting in San José with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on UNGASS.

Drug Policy Dialogue in Puerto Rico, April 23 – 25. Co-organised with the Washington Office on Latin America WOLA and Intercambios Puerto Rico. The event, attended by Pien Metaal, Tom Blickman and Martin Jelsma, was intended to discuss different issues:

Puerto_Rico_01-The Caribbean drugs market panorama – We tried to get a picture of the region in terms of the magnitude of current illicit drug market, its impact and effects on societies, by sharing criteria and firsthand knowledge from different parts of the region.

-Harm reduction policies: what would work for the Caribbean? - What specific harm reduction instruments would be worthwhile considering in the Caribbean region and how the debate can be shifted towards its acceptance as a common policy.

-Caribbean cannabis policies and options for reform - We discussed the cannabis reforms and debate underway in the region, the problems to be resolved and objectives achieved, as well as the lessons of reform initiatives in other places, such as Uruguay.

-Drug related crimes and prison population - The effects of the focus of drug policy on incarceration and its impacts on the regions prison problems.

-UNGASS and the Caribbean - The state of UNGASS preparations, its relevance for the Caribbean region, and how Caribbean countries could become more actively engaged in the process, and perhaps join the growing group of like-minded Latin American countries to try coordinate certain positions.

Patrick Junior Leon Cottle, co-founder of the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Cannabis Revivial Committee (SVGCRC), spoke with this video message on the issue of cannabis cultivation in the region, and the importance to take into acoount the farmers perspective in the debate about cannabis regulation.

The Dialogue was attended by around 30 participants most of them Government officials from Latin American and Caribbean countries. Although it was a private event, it was reviewed by the local press 

Drug Regulation in Europe and Latin America

PienDeustoJune 18 and 19 - The University of Deusto together with the UNESCO faculty and the Bask Institute of Drug Dependence in Bilbao organized the meeting, EU- Latin America drug regulation developments. Pien Metaal was invited to speak on behalf of TNI. She also attended a meeting of the Expert Group working on a cannabis regulation model for Spain.

Meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague, June 4th. Martin Jelsma and Pien Metaal gave a presentation on UNGASS history and on recent drug policy developments in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Netherlands will have the EU presidency during the UNGASS, and is likely to organize a high-level EU-CARICOM meeting in the first half of 2016 on drugs- and security-related issues.

  Public debate on drug policy and cannabis reforms in SpainMay 29-31. Pien Metaal attended the debate organised by Assonabis, a Spanish local cannabis club association in Castellón Valencia (Spain) with intelectuals and Spanish activists working on these issues.

Alternative Development

Tom Kramer travelled to Brussels, June 4th, to talk about the land and drugs nexus in Myanmar in a ‘brainstorming lab’ organized by the German International Cooperation (GIZ) and Open Society Foundation (OSF) at the European Development Days.


Ghent Annual conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policies (ISSDP), Ghent (Belgium), 20-22 May. Attended by Tom Blickman and Clara Musto. She chaired one of the sessions and made a presentation on the current Uruguayan cannabis policy.

Cannabis regulation models - D&D is advising cannabis social clubs in the Netherlands and Belgium. Tom B attended a club meeting on May 11 in Amsterdam with different groups that want to start a club.

Preparations for UNGASS 2016

In this period, D&D has been actively working on preparations for UNGASS 2016:

  • Martin Jelsma was one of the speakers of the conference: Improving Global Drug Policy: Comparative Perspectives and UNGASS 2016, June 19th, in London, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies IISS.Video: Conference streamed live
  • Interssesional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, June 12. The meeting was one of a series of intersessionals to discuss the modalities of the UNGASS.
  • Martin Jelsma made a presentation on the importance of UNGASS at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague, on June 4th. He presented his paper: UNGASS 2016: Prospects for Treaty Reform and UN System-Wide Coherence on Drug Policy
  • Meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague on UNGASS 2016, Martin Jelsma and Pien Metaal gave a presentation on UNGASS history and on recent drug policy developments in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Netherlands will have the EU presidency during the UNGASS, and is likely to organize a high-level EU-CARICOM meeting in the first half of 2016 on drugs- and security-related issues.
  • A high-level thematic debate of the General Assembly took place on May 7th, where the Jamaican Minister of Justice presented TNI's proposal for an UNGASS expert advisory group to look into UN system-wide coherence and treaty tensions; Ecuador and Uruguay supported the proposal.
  • On behalf of D&D Ernestien Jensema has written a letter to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights providing input to their study on human rights and the world drug problem. In the letter we draw attention to human right violations in the name of drug control and stress the need for UN system wide cohesion. In conclusion we ask the OHCHR to analyse the tensions between the human right treaties and the UN drug conventions.


We have been following the debates and developments around the end of the aerial spraying with the herbicide Glyphosate on coca fields in Colombia. The country has been fumigating its illicit crops for more than three decades.


In the media:

Tom Kramer was quoted (June 10th) on the Shan Herald Agency for News: TNI: Peace process raises hope for more effective and human drug policies. The article highlights the release of the TNI report on Myanmar “saying the ongoing peace process has raised hope for more effective drug policies.”

Tom Blickman has been quoted on UNODC's concern over kratom  in a VICE-News article, of May 28th: Meth Trafficking Has Exploded Throughout Asia Despite Hardline Laws

Martin Jelsma provided information and was quoted at The Economist, on May 2nd: The new drug warriors.

During his visit to Puerto Rico to attend the Drug Policy Dialogue, Justice Minister of Jamaica spoke about the experience of his country with respect to cannabis. April 27. (In Spanish).



Primer on Human Rights and Drug Policy (updated)

UNGASS 2016: Prospects for Treaty Reform and UN System-Wide Coherence on Drug Policy (Paper) - As the world prepares for the 2016 United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem, the global drug control regime faces profound challenges. An increasing number of countries now find the regime’s emphasis on punitive approaches to illicit drugs to be problematic and are asking for reform. The document makes a deep examination of the possibilities of reform at the next UNGASS. On April 30 this paper, written by Martin for the Brookings Institution, was published in a series of papers including, The Current State of Counternarcotics Policy and Drug Reform Debates in Myanmar by Tom Kramer, on Burma. Tom Kramer reviews the consequences of Myanmar’s decades of internal violence on the drug trade and the problematic consequences of drug suppression without securing alternative livelihoods. The papers were also presented in June in London.

We have created new web pages on the drug law reform in Latin America and the Caribbean: Jamaica, Belize, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

The seven steps of drug policy reform in Ecuador. Recent History and a Look toward the Future. Article in depth written by Jorge Paladines.

From our Cáñamo (Barcelona) column:

  • Medicinas esenciales como la ketamina no deberían incluirse en las listas de los tratados de drogas de la ONU - The article on Ketamine, by Martin was widely distributed on social media outlets
  • Contradicciones en el control de los estimulantes de origen vegetal
  • Europa sí podría reformar sus políticas para el cannabis

Coming up the next quarter:

-Tom Kramer and Ernestien Jensema have started the preparations for our next informal drug policy dialogue in Asia, which is likely to take place in Cambodia.
-Book of Authorities
-Webprimer UN Drug Treaties
-Southeast Asia Drug Law Reform Brief: Impacts of drug laws in Burma
-Timeline on Cannabis