Colombia Will Decriminalize Small Amounts of Weed and Cocaine

Today, Colombia’s Constitutional Court  approved a government proposal to decriminalize personal use and possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana.  Anyone caught with less than 20 grams of weed or one gram of cocaine will not be arrested but offered physical or psychological treatment., depending on their state of consumption.  

The maximum legal amount of pot, however, is significantly more lenient than the max for coke. While 20 grams of weed might last a regular smoker (depending on how much he/she shares and smokes, of course) a month, a gram of cocaine could last a night or weekend of use.

Still, the important reform is a big step toward a health-oriented -- rather than criminal justice -- approach to drug use.

As Ethan Nadelmann, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, explained in a statement:

Decriminalizing drug possession appears to have little impact on levels of illicit drug use.  Its principal impacts are reducing arrests of drug users, especially those who are young and/or members of minority groups; reducing opportunities for low level police corruption; allowing police to focus on more serious crimes; reducing criminal justice system costs; and better enabling individuals, families, communities and local governments to deal with addiction as a health rather than criminal issue.

The ruling comes on the heels of Latin American leaders’ unprecedented calls  to  drastically reform drug laws. Nadelmann says it is more evidence that the United States must seriously consider the international drug war debate:

The United States clearly lags far behind Europe and Latin America in ending the criminalization of drug possession.  Momentum for reform is growing with respect to decriminalization of marijuana possession, with Massachusetts reducing penalties in 2008, California in 2010, Connecticut in 2011 and Rhode Island earlier this year.  All states, however, treat possession of other illegal drugs as a crime.  Thirteen states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government currently treat possession of drugs for personal use as a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to a year in jail.  The remaining thirty-seven states treat possession of cocaine, heroin and other drugs as a felony, with penalties than can include many years in prison.

Just last week, Uruguayan President José Mujica drafted a proposal for the government to legalize and sell pot to citizens.

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at June 29, 2012, 9:36am