The trend of "drug decriminalization" is quickly taking shape in Latin America. Increasingly, many countries are leaning toward decriminalization as an alternative approach, hoping that it will be effective both in reducing consumption and dealing with associated health problems.
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.
Many countries in the region – most recently Mexico – have decriminalized small amounts of drugs for personal use. The moves have followed decisions by left-leaning governments to limit cooperation with the US in recent years.
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.
WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Here's a stern warning to the U.S. states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. A United Nations body is displeased with your liberal medical marijuana laws. Very displeased.
Ten years ago, in July 2001, Portugal decriminalized the use and possession of all illicit drugs including cocaine and heroin. Under the new legal framework, all drugs were “decriminalized,” not “legalized.” Drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm.
The world will be watching as Californians go to the polls on Tuesday and vote on Proposition 19, which would legalize and regulate marijuana in that state. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, however, it has already sparked an intense international debate, particularly in Latin America where the U.S. has long waged its “war on drugs.” Drug war critics and even some who have supported the U.S. approach to date are asking how the U.S. government can continue to call on Latin American governments to implement harsh drug control policies when at least some of those policies are being called into question in the United States itself.
Foreign minister Maria Angela Holguín’s statement of last Sunday 10 October is of great importance. According to this statement, Colombia should take the discussion about the drugs policy to a global level and to the UN’s Security Council. According to her criteria it doesn’t make sense that whilst certain developed countries decriminalize and legalize certain use, we continue to “imprison peasants who own half a hectare of coca leaf cultivation”.
What are the benefits and risks of eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana possession for personal use?
What are the risks and benefits of distinguishing international narco-trafficking from small-scale dealing?
The war on drugs has failed. What are the alternatives?
These and other questions will be discussed by the new Global Commission on Drug Policy, to be launched on the 24th and 25th of January, 2011, in Geneva. The Commission will include eminent personalities such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Javier Solana, Ernesto Zedillo, Ruth Dreifuss, Michel Kazatchkine, Cesar Gaviria, Carlos Fuentes and Thorvald Stoltenberg, among others. The Global Commission will be chaired by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, (former president of Brazil).
In an online town hall session yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama suggested that, while he is not in favor of drug legalization, he does believe drugs ought to be treated as “more of a public health problem.” Obama went on to add: “On drugs, I think a lot of times we’ve been so focused on arrests, incarceration, interdiction, that we don’t spend as much time thinking about how do we shrink demand.” (See the video clip below for the president’s full remarks.)
The municipality of the Dutch city of Utrecht recently announced two scientific experiments on cannabis policy. One experiment will be to set up a closed club model for adult recreational cannabis users. Cannabis smokers will grow their own marijuana in a cooperative, a move which would go against the government's drive to discourage coffee shops. The other experiment concerns treatment for people who are vulnerable to psychotic disorders.
TNI has been closely involved with the Global Commission on Drug Policy which presented its report in New York on June 2. Some years ago we published a report, entitled Cracks in the Vienna Consensus in which we argued that cracks were appearing in the supposedly universal model under the UN treaty system. In reality, the global system is based on a highly fragile consensus of Vienna, where the UN drug control system is headquartered, and the painstaking negotiations every year to keep up the appearance of unity have become the symbol of paralysis and frustration.
At a press conference in New York on Tuesday 26 October, 2010, at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, one of the UN’s key human rights experts will call for a fundamental rethink of international drug policy. Anand Grover, from India, is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, whose mandate is derived from the UN Human Rights Council.
Colombia's Supreme Court ruled against harsh punishments for small-time drug offenders, in a move towards easing up Colombia's zero-tolerance drug laws, which have achieved little in the fight against organized crime.
On August 2, 2011 the Minister of Justice presented to the Committee on Social Affairs of the Greek Parliament the changes proposed by the legislative committee to reform the drug laws. The basic reforms of the law include: the decriminalization of drug use. The proposal considers drug use as an act of self-harm and has to be addressed by the legislator in the same way as dependence of tobacco or alcohol which are not less dangerous and harmful to health but are not considered as crime.
The General Assembly of Cannabis Users Association Pannagh denounces the disproportionate intervention of the Municipal Police of Bilbao against the association and demands the immediate withdrawal of the charges against the three members who were arrested last Monday, in recognition of the fact that they have not committed any crime, taking into account that Pannagh carries out its activities according to the jurisprudence regarding the ’shared consumption’ such as has been approved by the Provincial Tribunal of Bizkaia in its decision to withdraw the prosecution that was opened by the municipal police in 2005.