Latin America, where prohibition prevails

Most laws focus on rehabilitation, rather than imprisonment
Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
22/07/2017
17:02
José Meléndez / corresponsal
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Taxi drivers, waiters, bartenders, prostitutes, maids, messengers... anyone offers marijuana in Jamaica, one of the kingdoms of almost public consumption in the American continent.

But even in that heavenly corner, where consumption is a visible part of life, there is legal restraint, similar to the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, to sow, harvest, produce, distribute, market and carry that drug.

"The prohibitionist posture imposed by the international drug control system on cannabis still persists in almost all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean," concluded the report "Cannabis in Latin America and the Caribbean. From punishment to regulation” dated September 2016. The document, of which EL UNIVERSAL has a copy, was published by the Transnational Institute (TNI), an international alternative policy organization based in the Netherlands.

Recalling that only Uruguay regulates "the entire chain," the study determined that possession of marijuana in "almost all" Latin American and Caribbean countries "is typified by criminal law."

"There are countries that historically appear as regional producers or have a greater history or link with the plant," such as Mexico, Jamaica, Paraguay, and Colombia, stressing that the urgency of cannabis "market regulation" is driven by "the increase of users and growers.”

In Jamaica, apart from religious reasons, other exceptions to carrying more than 2 ounces (56 grams) are for scientific research and for medical or therapeutic purposes.

The situation varies between countries, according to the report. Argentina enacted in 1989 a law that criminalized consumption only by accessory factors such as cultivation or tenure.

A reform in 2009 to the Political Constitution of Colombia specified that "the possession and consumption of narcotic or psychotropic substances are prohibited, except for medical prescription."

With legislation passed in Chile in 2005, drug use was allowed in private places but sanctioned cultivation and possession.

Costa Rica's legislation never sanctioned with jail the consumption of cannabis or possession for personal consumption, although users, depending on the amount and at judicial discretion, could face the criminal system.

Carrying 0,35 ounces (10 grams) of marijuana in Ecuador and 0,28 (8 grams) in Peru is excluded as a crime under the criminal codes of those countries.

A law decreed in Brazil in 2006 delimited that cultivating, harvesting, storing, transporting or carrying marijuana for personal consumption will not be penalized by imprisonment.

The report warned that Latin America and the Caribbean should prepare to pass legal reforms "instead of thinking of provisional solutions" that will reproduce "the same harmful consequences."

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