There is an undeniable regional trend of moving away from the ‘war on drugs’ in Latin America. This briefing explains the background, summarises the state of ongoing drug law reforms, and makes recommendations to move the debate forward.
Despite efforts by governments in Latin America, illicit drugs continue to provide one of the largest incomes for criminal organizations, enabling them to penetrate and corrupt political and social institutions.
In Brazil, the first large crack consumption market appeared at the end of the 1980s in São Paulo and expanded during the 1990s reaching its peak halfway the decade. Crack use spread to other regions in Brazil during the 1990s, in particular to youngsters from low-income population in urban areas. A 2002 survey among young street dwellers in all the state capitals revealed that crack had spread to 22 states.
Paraguay is the principal producer of cannabis in South America. Despite its importance as a supplier of cannabis in South America, there has been a surprising absence of serious studies of its impact on its own society, and on the play of offer and demand in neighbouring countries.
Cannabis (or marihuana) is one of the most widely consumed psychoactive substances in the world. According to the United Nations World Drug Report, 183 million people, or 3.8% of the world’s population, used cannabis in 2014. Its cultivation was also reported by 129 countries. Cannabis is subject to the United Nations System for International Control of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (hereafter “drugs”) and is the most widely consumed of all the drugs. According to that control system, cannabis is among the substances with the strictest legal status; they are the most prohibited, supposedly because of the harm they cause and their lack of medical usefulness.