Argentina’s president has endorsed the idea of developing more lenient drug legislation, marking the country’s first step towards joining a regional push for alternative solutions to the illegal drug problem and raising the question of whether it could follow a similar path as Uruguay.
Following President Cristina Kirchner’s approval, government officials began drafting proposals to decriminalize drug consumption, reported La Nacion. Officials hope to present the initiative — which is being led by Argentina’s Secretariat for Programming for the Prevention of Drug Addiction and the Fight Against Drug Trafficking (Sedronar) — to the Argentine Congress by the end of the year.
According to La Nacion, the reforms will be based on two previous proposals, including one that advocates for the legalization of all drugs for personal consumption and decriminalizes growing marijuana for personal use.
Juan Carlos Molina, the head of Sedronar, said the idea behind the initiative was to use government resources to combat drug trafficking, rather than drug users.
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Under current law, drug users in Argentina can be sentenced to prison for possessing any type of drug, according to La Nacion. Although a 2009 Supreme Court decision found punishing adult marijuana users to be unconstitutional — provided they were not inflicting harm on anyone else — the decision has reportedly been interpreted in different ways by the lower courts, and does not prevent law enforcement officials from detaining drug users.
The current proposal reflects a regional trend of moving away from the prohibitive and heavy-handed policies of the so-called “war on drugs,” which have had high social costs — such as filling the region’s jails with drug addicts — and failed to slow the transnational drug trade. Last year, Uruguay became the first nation in the world to pass legislation regulating marijuana consumption, production, and sale for recreational purposes. Elsewhere in the region, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Costa Rica have all decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and Jamaica has recently taken steps in the same direction.
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Although Argentina has yet to release an official proposal, the current news indicates reforms could go a step further than decriminalizing marijuana for personal use, thus edging the country closer to the comprehensive reforms seen in neighboring Uruguay. However, officials have said the reform process will be slow, and the country may be waiting to see how Uruguay’s controversial experiment turns out before making any definitive moves.