Argentina decriminalises personal drug use

By zera · Apr 24, 2008 · ·
  1. zera
    Argentina Decriminalize Drug Consumption!

    Sweet, sounds like progress at least in one country. Good news though if this works well in Argentina it might convince other countries to try it.

    This just in… A federal court in Argentina has decriminalized the personal consumption of drugs in that country. According to the court’s ruling, punishing drug users only “creates an avalanche of cases targeting consumers without climbing up in the ladder of [drug] trafficking.”

    Last month at a UN meeting in Vienna, Argentina’s Minister of Justice, Aníbal Fernández, said that the policy of punishing drug consumers was a “total failure.”

    Finally one piece of good news from Argentina.

    Original Spanish article here for those can read it:

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  1. enquirewithin
    Re: Argentina Decriminalize Drug Consumption!

    Incredible news! That makes Argentina one of the more enlightened countries in the world-- it's drug laws anyway.

    I can't read Spanish. Babelfish can?

    Does this only apply to marijuana? Or all drugs?

  2. zera
    Re: Argentina Decriminalize Drug Consumption!

    Drug laws are a big part of what I would look at when trying to consider a country enlightened. At least in America drug laws have probably done more harm to minority communities than any social policy since Jim Crow. A with decriminalization has the same if not more moral standing over a prohibitionist police state than countries in the 60s with integrated racial policies had over those with segregation and legally enforced separation.
  3. Lunar Loops
    Re: Argentina Decriminalize Drug Consumption!

    That is very interesting news. Does anybody know anything about the federal judicial system in Argentina? How binding is this ruling likely to be? Does it only affect Buenos Aires?

    Another consideration is how durable is the decision, given the pressure that will certainly be applied?

    Good news though and it would be great if we could find further pieces on this.
  4. lulz

    First it was just Portugal, now Argentina too. I wonder which country will turn next?
  5. Alfa
    Nope. Spain was before Portugal. And there are several eastern European countries that do not punish drug consumers.
  6. Pondlife
    So now three UN member states have decriminalised personal possession. Article 36 of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs states (my emphasis):

    It is unclear whether "possession" includes personal possession or only possession with intent to supply.

    Do these recent developments mean that the UN single convention does not require member states to criminalise personal possession? I've heard this mentioned as one of the reasons against decriminalisation, so it would be interesting if that is no longer a valid reason.
  7. quomem
    sounds like an intelligent approach to me. What a shame rwat I live in the "first world"!
  8. MachinaDeus
    Maybe this will reignite interest in Mexico's plan to decriminalize drugs. If the entire south american continent was able to push for decriminalization perhaps it may lead to better things in america's drug laws. The pessimism in swim says the united states will conveniently find WMDs in argentina ,and presto no more free thought problems there.
  9. jilola
    Someone told a friend of swim that the UN agreements are not actual laws but rather concensus cop-outs from having to make up ones own mind.
  10. polidelaiko
    WMD in Argentina... LOL... We don`t have money for that.
    Well, good news for me, I guess. Still, SWIM is going to keep his weed usage indoors. Maybe you won`t end up with a criminal record, but the police is still going to treat you like shit if they get you smoking.
  11. AntiAimer
    Exactly, decriminalization is a good step in the right direction but still fails to solve the bigger picture. Being fined(ticketed) is still a criminal offence or else you wouldn't get a fine(ticket) in the first place. Decriminalization makes as much sense as locking up drug users.

    It's a illusion to make it seem like it's not illegal which it still is.:thumbsdown:
  12. Expat98
    Also, don't forget Colombia. That's kind of a special case though. (My buddy SWIM would NOT want to be caught there with even a little bit more than the tiny amount allowed for personal use.) BTW, I read somewhere that Pres. Uribe is trying to re-criminalize possession of small quantities. :thumbsdown:
  13. enquirewithin
    That's ironic-- from someone with known connections to the cocaine trade.
  14. grandbaby
    Not really ironic at all; prohibition is the only thing keeping the drug-lords in business.

    Ah, but illusions can be powerful. Anything that eases up on the tremendous pressure on simple users is a good thing, IMHO. Baby steps, grasshopper...

    Applause due to Argentina. Who's next? :D
  15. x cynic x
    Re: Argentina Decriminalize Drug Consumption!

    Where has all this rationality been hiding? Anyway, I'm glad to see how people are becoming less afraid to actually acknowledged the futility of prohibition. You would think they would compare the situation today with the failure of prohibitting alcohol and see how a demand guarentees a supply.
  16. Expat98
    Contrary to what most of us assumed above, apparently personal drug possession has NOT (yet) been fully decriminalized nationwide in Argentina. The news stories above refer to a court decision in Buenos Aires (about marijuana only, or all drugs?), but the President is still pushing for legislative decriminalization.

    Here are a couple of updates:


    Latin America: More Argentine Courts Throw Out Drug Possession Charges

    from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #539, 6/13/08

    2006 ''Million Marijuana March'' demonstration,
    Rosario, Argentina

    In April, judges in Argentine federal courts in the province of Buenos Aires threw out drug possession charges against two young men arrested at a 2007 electronic music festival, saying they were unconstitutional. Last week, more Argentine courts weighed in, with a group of judges echoing that ruling as they considered the case of a young man arrested for marijuana possession.

    The judges dismissed the charges, saying that criminalizing drug possession without showing harm to others violated the Argentine constitution. "Criminalization will only apply in cases where the possession of narcotics for personal consumption represents a danger for the public health of others," the judges announced, according to a report from the Associated Press.

    For the past several years, the Argentine government has been working on a rewrite of the country's drug laws, but judges there are not waiting for the legislature to do its work. Their rulings are winning the support of constitutional scholars and are in line with the attitudes of the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Aníbal Fernández, the minister of justice, security, and health, has publicly denounced the country's drug laws as a "catastrophe."

    "This criterion fits in well with the laws of more civilized nations," Daniel Sabsay, an Argentine constitutional scholar, told Buenos Aires's Clarin newspaper. "I believe that with this, the sense of a broadening of freedom is respected."



    Argentine president calls for decriminalization of drug use

    updated 10:54 p.m. EDT, Fri August 1, 2008

    President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
    says she doesn't like to "condemn someone
    who has an addiction."

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNN) -- President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner repeated her call this week to decriminalize personal drug use and crack down on traffickers and dealers.

    "I don't like it when people easily condemn someone who has an addiction as if he were a criminal, as if he were a person who should be persecuted," she told a meeting of the National Investigation into the Consumption of Alcohol, Tobacco, Psychopharmaceuticals and Illegal Drugs.

    "Those who should be persecuted are those who sell the substances, those who give it away, those who traffic in it."

    A poll shows 2 percent of Argentines have tried cocaine, but some people believe decriminalization of drugs could result in wider drug use.

    Regardless, the Argentine government is pushing Congress to pass the decriminalization legislation by the end of the year.

    "Decriminalization of the consumer should include what are called second-generation human rights, but at the same time there should be a strong policy of prevention, so that no one falls in the situation of consuming any substance," said Anibal Fernandez, the minister of security and justice.

    Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, said such policies have been adopted throughout Europe and other parts of Latin America.

    "The evidence generally shows that the decriminalization of possession is not clearly associated with any increase in illicit drug use," he said.

    A few years ago, then-Mexican President Vicente Fox proposed decriminalizing possession of drugs combined with a crackdown on traffickers, but a harsh reaction from the Bush administration caused him to retreat, Nadelmann said.

    Brazil and Colombia have passed laws decriminalizing drug use in an effort to combat the spread of HIV among injecting drug users, he said.

    Politicians recognize that "you basically need to get those people out of the underground and into health systems," Nadelmann said.

    "This would be part of a growing number of countries in Latin America where there is, either for political or judicial reasons, a push toward decriminalization of personal possession, sometimes combined with initiatives to crack down harder on bigger drug traffickers," he said.

    "It typically involves both lessening the criminal sanction for possession of cannabis while also providing for alternatives to incarceration for people addicted to drugs who are arrested for drug possession or other minor offenses."

    The concept has gained followers in the United States, too, he said, citing statistics that show two-thirds of Americans support drug treatment instead of jail time for first-time drug offenders.

    On Wednesday, Rep. Barney Frank announced a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams, or almost a quarter-pound, of marijuana.

    "The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business," Frank said on Capitol Hill. "I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time."

  17. zera
    2% of Argentines, compared to 15% of US Americans, despite the fact that America has some of the harshest laws towards cocaine of any nation on Earth. The notion that heavy criminal penalties is correlated at all with reduced drug use is clearly refuted by both cross-sectional and time-series data.

    On another note, South America has the hottest heads of state ever...
  18. Expat98
    Nah, I don't buy that. Consider the issue this way: If everything in the U.S. were to remain exactly the same -- the education system, media, economics, social views toward drugs, drug treatment funding, etc. -- except that drugs were suddenly decriminalized, then do you think drug use would go up or down? It would of course go up. All other factors being equal, drug use would increase if there were not the threat of harsh penalties hanging over people's heads.

    The point is not that heavy criminal penalties have no correlation with drug use, as you stated. They do have an effect, but the point is that criminal penalties are just one of many factors involved in the level of drug use....and not necessarily the most important factors....and certainly not the most effective or smart approach to drug problems....and they're destructive to society.

    For further food for thought, consider this thread:

    Argentina top cocaine consumer in Latin America

    So although Argentina probably has one of the most lenient drug use climates in Latin America, they're still the top cocaine consumer. I'd guess that has to do with higher disposable income levels relative to the rest of Latin America. (Even though their economy tanked a few years ago, the average Argentinian is still probably better off than in most other Latin American countries.)

    So there's also an economic factor involved... among criminal penalties and many other factors of course.

    BTW, I'd guess that high disposable income levels also have a lot to do with the high drug use rate in the U.S.

    On that we agree. [​IMG]

  19. Expat98
    Argentine drug law plan sparks debate in slums

    Mon Aug 18, 2008
    By Helen Popper, REUTERS

    A sixteen-year-old smokes a cigarette laced with "paco", a cheap
    drug made from cocaine paste mixed with other toxic substances
    in a slum of Rosario, 310 km (193 miles) north of Buenos Aires -
    March 3, 2008.

    BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Government plans to decriminalize drug use are stirring controversy in Argentina's slums, where residents blame a crack-like drug called paco for fueling crime, violence and desperation.

    Children as young as 10 smoke paco in Ciudad Oculta (Hidden City), a ramshackle neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Youths scan rubbish heaped by the roadside for anything to eat or sell to scrape together five pesos ($1.60) for a short-lived, intense hit.

    "They swap food for drugs and then eat from the bins," said Bilma Acuna, 46, one of the addicts' mothers who have banded together to fight paco in Ciudad Oculta. "It rots their brains. Punishment doesn't work (because) the addict is sick, he can't help it."

    Argentina's justice minister agrees. He says people caught with small amounts of paco and other drugs for personal use should be treated as victims, with police time dedicated to arresting dealers and smashing big-time trafficking rings.

    "We're not inciting drugs (but) we can't criminalize addicts," the minister, Anibal Fernandez, said in a recent television interview. "The ones that have got to go to prison are the peddlers, the smugglers."

    He says decriminalization has not caused drug use to increase in other countries, and the measure would ease pressure on Argentina's overloaded justice system and jails.

    But critics fear the government proposal, which has not yet been sent to Congress, would make it easier for dealers in a country with few treatment programs for addicts -- especially among the poor.

    Others think tougher action on trafficking should come first.

    "What's the point of decriminalizing drug possession without stopping this social poison from entering the country?" said anti-drugs activist Claudio Izaguirre, calling for greater radar coverage over Argentine airspace and border controls.


    Argentines are Latin America's biggest cocaine users, according to the United Nations' latest World Drug Report. Cocaine use runs at 2.6 percent of the population, compared with 3 percent in the United States, and it is rising.

    Several high-profile police raids and murders linked to drug gangs have exposed its status as a transit point for Andean cocaine bound for Europe and a source of precursor chemicals used to make drugs such as methamphetamine.

    Last month, police arrested nine Mexicans who had set up an ecstasy factory in a country house north of the capital. Days later, gunmen shot dead two Colombians at a shopping mall in an apparent feud over a stolen cocaine shipment.

    But for ordinary Argentines the biggest concern is paco, which is made from cocaine lab leftovers and emerged in poor areas during an economic crisis at the start of the decade.

    In Ciudad Oculta, front yards are bare these days because residents were fed up of getting everything down to flowerpots stolen by the paco users.

    It is easy to spot the addicts. They lose weight fast and wander around in T-shirts in the middle of winter, having sold the rest of their clothes.

    While some of the mothers support the decriminalization proposal, saying paco users are not deterred by punishment anyway, others fear it would make matters even worse.

    "The state has completely abandoned these kids," said Maria Rosa Gonzalez, who has one addicted son and another who quit after she managed to get him into rehabilitation. "Decriminalization is just another way for them to wash their hands of the problem."

  20. enquirewithin
    Interesting, but I had never heard of 'paco' before.
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