Drug Law Reform on the Map

peru peru - click to explore further argentina - click to explore further chile - click to explore further uruguay - click to explore further brazil - click to explore further bolivia - click to explore further ecuador - click to explore further colombia - click to explore further venezuela - click to explore further paraguay - click to explore further mexico - click to explore further

Drug Legislative Reforms in Latin America

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Peru: Decriminalization

In Peru, coca leaf consumption has never been criminalized and a state-controlled licensing system exists for its cultivation and distribution.

With regard to other drugs, in 1982, Decree 122 established that dependent users shall no longer be punished for possession of drugs for immediate personal consumption,

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Argentina: Decriminalization

On August, 25, 2009, Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled that applying sentences for possession of amounts of marijuana for personal use is unconstitutional.  

Although the Court Order does not specifically reference other substances, it opens the judicial door to drug law reform in Argentina, as the arguments are applicable to other drugs. A bill to decriminalize the possession of a...

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Chile: Seeking Decriminalization

The adoption in 2007 of Law 20.000 formally decriminalized the possession of drugs for immediate individual use in the private sphere. Drug use or possession in public places is an infraction, punishable with fines, forced treatment, community services and/or suspension of driving licenses.

The same penalties apply to “persons who consume such drugs in private places if they have...

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Uruguay: Decriminalization

Uruguay is one of the few countries that never criminalized the possession of drugs for personal use. Since 1974, the law establishes no quantity limits, leaving it to the judge’s discretion to determine whether the intent was personal use. There are no sanctions at all once it is determined by the judge that the amount in possession was meant for personal use.

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Brazil: Decriminalization Pending

Brazil went through legislative changes in 2002 and 2006, resulting in a partial decriminalization of possession for personal use. Prison sentences no longer apply and were replaced by educational measures and community services.

The Ministry of Justice and members of Congress are preparing various proposals to reform the current drug law. These are expected to include total decrim...

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Bolivia: Seeking Decriminalization

Bolivian Law 1008 is very repressive toward drug use, possession and small-scale trafficking. To date, not much has been done to open the discussion toward a more humane legislative framework for drug control.

The current law prohibits drug use and punishes possession for personal use with internment and forced treatment. Domestically, a legal market for coca leaf has always existe...

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Ecuador: Decriminalization Pending

In 2008, Ecuador’s Special Assembly (Asamblea Constituyente) approved an amnesty for drug couriers imprisoned for carrying less than 2 kilos and who had spent more than a year in prison.

A new Constitution approved by referendum in September 2008 states about drug users the following: “Under no circumstance shall they be criminalized nor their constitutional rights violated.”...

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Colombia: Re-Criminalization Pending

In 1994, the Colombian Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the punishment for possession of amounts for personal use. Since then, adults can possess up to 20 grams of marijuana and one gram of cocaine, among other substances, for consumption in the privacy of their homes without fear of any penal sanctions.

In July 2009, the Supreme Court overruled an October 2008 senten...

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Venezuela: Partial Decriminalization

In 1993, Venezuela replaced prison sentences with ‘social security measures’ for possession of up to 2 grams of cocaine and 20 grams of cannabis. Possession for personal use is punished with referral to treatment, which can still lead to obligatory internment in specialized centers.

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Paraguay: Decriminalization

In Paraguay, a new drug law in 1988 exempted from punishment those in possession of a maximum of 2 grams of cocaine or heroin and 10 grams of marijuana for personal consumption.

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Mexico: Decriminalization

In Mexico the ‘Narcomenudeo decree’ came into effect in August 2009, removing any sanctions for quantities for personal use: 5gr cannabis, 2gr opium, 0.5gr cocaine, 50 mgr heroin or 40 mgr of methamphetamine. Addicts enter mandatory treatment only after the third arrest.

The law strictly defines personal dosage and establishes very low amount thresholds. Therefore, this can res...

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  • A breakthrough in the making?

    Shifts in the Latin American drug policy debate

    Remarkable drug policy developments are taking place in Latin America. This is not only at the level of political debate, but is also reflected in actual legislative changes in a number of countries. All in all there is an undeniable regional trend of moving away from the ‘war on drugs’. This briefing ex­plains the background to the opening of the drug policy debate in the region, summa­rises the most relevant aspects of the on­going drug law reforms in some countries, and makes a series of recommendations that could help to move the debate forward in a productive manner.

    application-pdfDownload the briefing (PDF)

  • Despenalization of drugs: Realities and Perspectives in Guatemala

    Institute of National Problematics of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala

    CoverGTThe Institute of National Problematics of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala recently presented a new publication “Despenalization of drugs: Realities and Perspectives in Guatemala”. The new tendency towards legalization and/or decriminalization in the hemisphere stirred an internal debate about the need to revise drug policies in Guatemala towards policies with an emphasis on prevention and treatment of problematic use of drugs.

  • Study of the Organisation of American States (OAS)

    The objective of the reports is to find a better way to address the challenges posed by illicit drugs

    oas-scenariosOn May 17, 2013, the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to share the results of the hemispheric review of drug policies. This task was entrusted to him by the Heads of States of the Americas at the Sixth Americas Summit held in April 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia.

  • The drug policy reform agenda in the Americas

    Latin America has emerged at the vanguard of efforts to promote debate on drug policy reform. For decades, Latin American governments largely followed the drug control policies and programs of Washington’s so-called war on drugs. Yet two parallel trends have resulted in a dramatic change in course: the emergence of left-wing governments that have challenged Washington’s historic patterns of unilateralism and interventionism and growing frustration with the failure of the prohibitionist drug control model put forward by the US government.

    application-pdfDownload the briefing (PDF)



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In 2011 the 1961 UN Single Convention on drugs will be in place for 50 years. In 2012 the international drug control system will exist 100 years since the International Opium Convention was signed in 1912 in The Hague. Does it still serve its purpose or is a reform of the UN Drug Conventions needed? This site provides critical background.

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