Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Argentine Supreme Court to decriminalise drug possession today

So, in the same month that the UK Government is making political capital from attaching long prison sentences to several new drugs few people have even heard of, in a seemingly parallel universe not populated by drug warriors, other countries are queuing up to decriminalise personal possession of all drugs. Last week Mexico joined the growing list and today the Argentine Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling decriminalising drug possession for personal use.

The Court’s decision was based on a case brought by a 19 year-old who was arrested in the street for possession of two grams of cannabis. He was convicted and sentenced to a month and a half in prison, but challenged the constitutionality of the drug law based on Article 19 of the Argentine Constitution:

The private actions of men which in no way offend public order or morality, nor injure a third party, are only reserved to God and are exempted from the authority of judges. No inhabitant of the Nation shall be obliged to perform what the law does not demand nor deprived of what it does not prohibit.

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that personal drug consumption is covered by that privacy clause stipulated in Article 19 of the Constitution since it doesn’t affect third parties. Questions still remain, though, on the extent of the ruling. However, the government of President Cristina Fern├índez has fully endorsed the Court’s decision and has vowed to promptly submit a bill to Congress that would define the details of the decriminalization policies.

According to some reports, Brazil and Ecuador are considering similar steps.

The case has been under consideration by the high court for almost a year. The Argentine federal government has been reviewing its drug laws with an eye toward abandoning repressive policies toward users and is waiting for this case to be decided to move forward with new legislative proposals.

Supreme Court Justice Carlos Fayt told the Buenos Aires Herald that the court had reached a unanimous position on decriminalization, but declined to provide further details.

A positive Supreme Court decision on decriminalization would ratify a number of lower court decisions in recent years that have found that the use and possession of drugs without causing harm to others should not be a criminal offense.

see previous Transform blog coverage:

related coverage:
further reading:

Drug policy reform in practice - useful new briefing from TNI on decriminlisation and other forms of reform in Europe and the America's

thanks to Stop the Drug War and Cato@Liberty

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mexico decriminalises personal drug possession

On Thursday Mexico finally enacted legislation to decriminalize personal possession of small quantities of all drugs (plans reported/discussed in more detail here back in May).

The legislation will operate in a somewhat similar fashion to the Portugese approach with arrested individuals having to agree to a drug treatment program to address admitted addiction or enter a prevention program designed for recreational users. penalties for those who refuse to attend one of these kinds of programs under the Mexican scheme have yet to be clarified.

The Mexican legislation defines threshold quantities of drugs under which which a designation of personal use can be made. These include 5 g of cannabis, or half 0.5g of cocaine, 50mg of heroin, LSD 0.015mg, and MDA/MDMA/methamphetamine all at 40mg (or 200mg for pills). Problems with such thresholds to make a distinction between possession for personal use and intent to supply offences have recently been discussed in a the context of UK legislation ( see appendix of this Transform briefing).

The response from the US has so far been somewhat muted, in stark contrast to the uproar that greeted similar proposals from the previous President Vincent Fox in 2006 , which were abandoned under extreme pressure from the Bush administration.

In many respects the legislation represents a formalisation of what was widespread tolerant policing practice - so may not have a huge impact on the ground.

Mexico joins a growing list of countries around the world that have either made similar moves or have them in the pipeline (see further reading below). Such moves - it is important to note - only address personal possession and use and do not involve decriminalisation or legalisation/regulation of drug production and supply which remains in the control of criminal enterprises. The UN treaties, whilst theoretically allowing moves towards decriminalising (or at least depenalising) personal use, specifically outlaw exploring options for legal regulation of production/supply. That said - there is an increasingly active debate in Latin America around such moves (see below).

For more details see this Associated Press report 20.08.09

Further reading

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Baltimore police call for an end to the drug war

This is a short clip from MSNBC news, featuring interviews with the authors of a recent Washington Post article 'It's time to legalise drugs'; Peter Moskos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the author of "Cop in the Hood", and Neill Franklin, a 32-year law enforcement veteran. Both served as Baltimore City police officers (home of 'The Wire') and are members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

from the Washington Post piece:

"Only after years of witnessing the ineffectiveness of drug policies -- and the disproportionate impact the drug war has on young black men -- have we and other police officers begun to question the system.

Cities and states license beer and tobacco sellers to control where, when and to whom drugs are sold. Ending Prohibition saved lives because it took gangsters out of the game. Regulated alcohol doesn't work perfectly, but it works well enough. Prescription drugs are regulated, and while there is a huge problem with abuse, at least a system of distribution involving doctors and pharmacists works without violence and high-volume incarceration. Regulating drugs would work similarly: not a cure-all, but a vast improvement on the status quo.

Legalization would not create a drug free-for-all. In fact, regulation reins in the mess we already have. If prohibition decreased drug use and drug arrests acted as a deterrent, America would not lead the world in illegal drug use and incarceration for drug crimes.

Drug manufacturing and distribution is too dangerous to remain in the hands of unregulated criminals. Drug distribution needs to be the combined responsibility of doctors, the government, and a legal and regulated free market. This simple step would quickly eliminate the greatest threat of violence: street-corner drug dealing.

We simply urge the federal government to retreat. Let cities and states (and, while we're at it, other countries) decide their own drug policies. Many would continue prohibition, but some would try something new. California and its medical marijuana dispensaries provide a good working example, warts and all, that legalized drug distribution does not cause the sky to fall.

Having fought the war on drugs, we know that ending the drug war is the right thing to do -- for all of us, especially taxpayers. While the financial benefits of drug legalization are not our main concern, they are substantial. In a July referendum, Oakland, Calif., voted to tax drug sales by a 4-to-1 margin. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that ending the drug war would save $44 billion annually, with taxes bringing in an additional $33 billion.

Without the drug war, America's most decimated neighborhoods would have a chance to recover. Working people could sit on stoops, misguided youths wouldn't look up to criminals as role models, our overflowing prisons could hold real criminals, and -- most important to us -- more police officers wouldn't have to die."

Monday, August 17, 2009

A visual taxonomy of psychoactive drugs

This useful visual taxonomy of psychoactive drugs is from the brilliant Information is Beautiful blog (July 09). Click to see full resolution.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

FT weekend magazine cover story: "Legalise the Lot"

We mentioned this excellent recent article by Mathew Engel in the Financial Times in the miniblog but I thought it was worth posting a scan* of the FT weekend magazine cover.

That this article appeared in the FT is significant given its readership and prestige within the media, and the fact that it made the magazine cover so prominently is testimony to how mainstream the reform arguments have become.

* sorry the scan is a bit rubbish - my only copy got a bit crumpled

Monday, August 10, 2009

Transform on Twitter

We have finally given in to the inevitable and set up shop on Twitter. You can find our twitter page here .

On top of any other pertinent 140 character drug policy musings we may have, the Transform blog and miniblog posts both automaticallyfeed directly into our Twitter. We will also be building up a collection of other interesting twitter activity to follow - so please post links below.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The US Government will to pay you to grow cannabis and roll joints for them.

following announcement appeared on the US Government's Federal Business Opportunities website today:

Production, Analysis, & Distribution of Cannabis & Marijuana Cigarettes
Solicitation Number: N01DA-10-7773
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Office: National Institutes of Health
Location: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Added: Aug 05, 2009 9:03 am
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is soliciting proposals from qualified organizations having the capability to (1) grow, harvest, analyze, store and distribute GMP grade cannabis (marijuana) on large and small scales; (2) extract cannabis to obtain purified phytocannabinoids including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC), analyze, and store; (3) prepare marijuana cigarettes and related products; and (4) distribute marijuana, marijuana cigarettes and cannabinoids, and other related products for research and other Government programs upon NIDA authorization. Offeror must possess suitable and secure DEA approved outdoor and indoor growing facilities, research laboratory with appropriate analytical instruments, and experienced personnel to conduct the project tasks. Appropriate DEA approved secure facility for manufacturing of marijuana cigarettes, and their storage, and DEA Schedule I registration for marijuana and THC are essential. NIDA anticipates a 1-year with four 1 year options cost reimbursement type contract will be awarded. Additional quantity options for manufacturing cigarettes may also be required. In order to handle substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, it is mandatory that offerors possess a DEA Research Registration for Schedules II to V and demonstrate the capability to obtain a DEA registration for Schedule I controlled substances. All studies must be carried out under pertinent FDA regulations, such as current Good Clinical Practice (cGCP) and current Good Laboratory Practice (cGLP) regulations. The pertinent FDA's guidelines/guidance shall be followed. RFP No. N01DA-10-7773 will be available electronically on or about August 25, 2009. You can access the RFP through the FedBizOpps http://fbo.gov or through the NIDA website at the following address: http://www.nida.nih.gov/RFP/RFPList.html. The electronic RFP contains all information needed to submit a proposal. No printed version of the solicitation document or source list is available. NIDA will consider proposals submitted by any responsible offeror. Proposals will be due on or about October 9, 2009. This advertisement does not commit the Government to award a contract. Based upon market research, the Government is not using the policies contained in Part 12, Acquisition of Commercial Items, in its solicitation for the described supplies or services. However, interested persons may identify to the contracting officer their interest and capability to satisfy the Government's requirement with a commercial item within 15 days of this notice.

Contracting Office Address:
6101 Executive Boulevard
Room 260 - MSC 8402
Bethesda, Maryland 20892
Primary Point of Contact.:
Amy Sheib