Argentina high court decriminalizes possession of marijuana for personal use

[JURIST] The Argentine Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] unanimously held [judgment, PDF, in Spanish; press release, in Spanish] Tuesday that possession of small amounts of marijuana for private, personal consumption that does not endanger or harm third parties is not punishable by law. The ruling reversed a lower court ruling that had convicted five defendants for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The court found the second paragraph of article 14 in Law 23.737 [text, in Spanish], which penalizes possession of small quantities of drugs for personal consumption, unconstitutional because it infringes on the privacy clause of Article 19 in the Argentine Constitution [text, PDF]. The clause exempts private actions that pose no danger to the public from lawful judgment, leaving them "only reserved for God." The decision emphasized that it does not purport to legalize marijuana, calling instead on governmental authorities to counter narcotrafficking and address the personal consumption as a public health problem.

Last week, Mexico adopted a law [text, in Spanish] that decriminalizes possession of small quantities of several drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, and heroin. The law explicitly defines what constitutes a small quantity for each of the drugs, and mandates treatment for individuals caught for a third time possessing quantities lower than the standard. In February, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy [official website], a blue ribbon commission headed by former presidents from Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, issued a report [text, PDF] that recommended "[t]reating drug users as a matter of public health and promoting the reduction of drug consumption are preconditions for focusing repressive action on two critical points: reduction and production and dismantling networks of drug trafficking," departing from prohibitionist policies that the commission characterized as a failure for the past 30 years and calling for public debate on the subject.

 

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