Latin America Winning The War Against The War on Drugs
Most people know that 23 states have legal medical marijuana and four states have legal recreational marijuana (Ohio will vote on legal pot this November).
What most people don't know is that Central and South American countries, the ones who have suffered the most violence from drug prohibition, are moving far ahead of us in the fight to end this costly and losing war.
It's been legal to smoke weed in Uruguay since 1974, but only last year did it become legal to grow it and sell it. Uruguay became the first nation in the world with 100% legal pot. The problem is the government hasn't put any effort to putting this law into effect.
But more than a year after the world’s most far-reaching marijuana reform was signed into law, the government body supposed to control the legal market is underfunded and understaffed, while police continue harassing growers and the pharmacy plan has barely advanced beyond the drawing board.
“At the moment, this is neither legal nor illegal,” said Marco Algorta, the 420 Club’s head gardener, checking a list of how much weed each member had taken.
Despite the government dragging its feet, the pot business is booming.
It's hard to think of Chile as being very progressive, but they appear to be about to totally decriminalize marijuana.
With its proposed changes to Ley 20.000 (Law 20,000), Chile joins a growing list of Latin American countries decriminalizing marijuana. The initiative, which would grant Chileans the right to possess up to 10 grams of cannabis and grow up to six marijuana plants at a time, was passed in Chile's Chamber of Deputies on July 7 with 68 voting in favor and 39 against. The bill must first be adjusted by a health commission and then passed by the Senate before it officially becomes law, but strong support for cannabis legalization in the country illustrates that legalizing marijuana use appears to be the new norm in the Western Hemisphere and, once again, that the War on Drugs has been a failed campaign.
According to polls, 86% of Chileans favor the legalization of medical marijuana.
Colombia isn't the first nation you would think of for progressive laws, so the Colombian Supreme Court took the lead on the issue two weeks ago.
Colombia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that growing up to 20 plants of marijuana is not a crime. The possession of small amounts of the drug had already been decriminalized.
The court ruled on the private cultivation of marijuana in an appeal filed by a man who had been sentenced to more than five years in prison after he had been caught by police with a recently cut plant weighing 124 grams.
The maximum amount of marijuana that can legally be carried is 20 grams in Colombia.
However, because the plant was meant for personal consumption, the court confirmed that there is no crime unless a person cultivates more than 20 plants.
The Colombian government will debate full decriminalization later this year.
Brazil's Supreme Court is currently considering decriminalizing marijuana.
Argentina is already in the process of decriminalizing marijuana, and other drugs for personal use.
Argentina’s government, with the support of President Cristina Kirchner, is currently drafting a set of proposals to loosen restrictions on marijuana possession. According to Argentine newspaper La Nacion, the initiative will build upon two previous proposals, one of which called for decriminalizing growing marijuana for personal use and legalizing the possession of all drugs for private use.
Like Argentina, Ecuador isn't stopping at just marijuana. They are pushing to legalize all personal drug use.
President Rafael Correa’s grouping in congress is pushing a watershed bill that would regulate consumption of outlawed drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, along with alcohol and other legal highs, like industrial solvents.
The draft for a new drug law says narcotics use should be managed “not by control, repression and even criminalization, but from the perspective of prevention”
That would include providing treatment and rehabilitation, and replacing jail with small fines, for drug users. Dealers would still face time behind bars, although less than previously.
Prevention rather than punishment? That sounds like far too much sense for the American political system.
Traditionally Bolivia's problem hasn't been pot. It's been cocaine.
So when Bolivian president, Evo Morales, a former coca farmer, kicked the DEA out of his country the American news media predicted a new narcostate on the horizon.
Instead, something very different happened.
After the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was kicked out of Bolivia, the country was able to drastically reduce the amount of coca (cocaine) produced within its borders. According to data released by the United Nations, cocaine production in the country declined by 11% in the past year, marking the fourth year in a row of steady decrease.
How did Morales manage to do this? Tougher jail sentences? Crackdowns? Restricting civil rights? Nope.
Instead, they worked to find alternative crops for farmers to grow that would actually make them more money.
“Bolivia has adopted a policy based on dialogue, where coca cultivation is allowed in traditional areas alongside alternative development [in others],” Antonino de Leo, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s representative in Bolivia, told VICE News.
“It’s not only about making money off a crop. In the old fashioned alternative development approach, we substitute one illicit crop for a licit crop. It’s about a more comprehensive approach that includes access to essential services like schools, hospitals, and roads in areas that traditionally have been hard to reach,” Leo added.
Schools, hospitals, and essential services? Why that's communism!
Admit it. You probably thought that marijuana was already legal in Jamaica. Well it's not. But it did just get decriminalized.
Mexico long ago decriminalized small amounts of pot. There is no national movement towards legalization, however, there is some progress.
One state in Mexico is currently in the process of legalizing the medical use of marijuana. The state of Jalisco, which borders the Pacific Ocean in the central part of the country, will most likely have a plan in place by the end of the year.
Mexico is unique in being directly affected by marijuana legalization in the United States.
Mexican drug cartels are losing market share to American growers, and, in fact, pot has now became an American export crop.
Connoisseurs in Juárez are noticing, he says; they’re starting to demand Purple Haze or Kush from American dispensaries. Gang members bring the quality stuff back from the U.S. The prices are higher—about 200 pesos per gram, compared with 50 pesos for his usual product—but then so is the quality. “There’s much more novelty, more variety,” he says.
So what does it all mean?
The change in marijuana laws is doing what you would logically conclude.
A U.N. report released Friday finds that while marijuana is enjoying a high in both legal and illegal usage, cocaine is coming off the high it enjoyed in prior decades.
Global cultivation of cocaine shrank 10 percent between 2012 and 2013, and seizures of the drug also dipped 9 percent between 2008 and 2013, the UN reports. Marijuana is in a boom period, however, not just in sales but also "rapid advancement in cannabis plant cultivation techniques,'' to improve the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the active chemical in cannabis, the report adds.
So people are smoking more of legal and safe marijuana instead of using dangerous and expensive cocaine. Who could have guessed?