Sunday, March 18, 2012

Minimum Drug Dose, Maximum Controversy

John and Ariana sniff glue, a legal drug, on a sidewalk in central Bogota. 
The government is rewriting the National Drug Statute and considering bringing back the old 'minimum dosage,' which permitted the carrying of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

The old minimum dosage right was ended in 2010 by Pres. Alvaro Uribe, a strong advocate of prohibitionism who argued that drug dealers hid behind the minimum dose law by carrying only that amount on their persons. The law permitted possession and consumption, but not buying and selling.

A few of the countless studies about
illegal drugs and Colombia.
Uribe's succesor, Pres. Juan Manuel Santos, has taken a very different tack, pointing out that the War on Drugs has severely injured Colombia and other countries and arguing for consideration of decriminalization and even straight-out legalization.

The proposed new National Drug Statute would permit possession of sharply reduced quantities of illegal drugs: for example, the old law permitted the carrying of 20 grams of marijuana, and the new proposed law only 5 grams. It may also include synthetic drugs.

As a first step toward treating drug addiction as what it is - a disease, rather than a crime, the new statute would be a step forward. But, until Colombia and other countries take the much more risky step of legalizing commerce in now-banned drugs they'll do little to reduce the crime and violence caused by the illegal drug economy.

Drunks recovering from a binge on a Bogotá sidewalk. 
That's why it may be more than coincidence that Colombia and other nations intend to advocate reconsidering prohibitionist policies at the Summit of the Americas, to be held in Cartagena in mid-April. Central American governments, many of which have been wracked by drug-fueled crime, plan to meet in late March to discuss a proposal to make at the summit.

U.S. officials have said they'll listen to alternative viewpoints - but that they're sure that prohibitionism is the best policy (or the least-worse one, anyway). One U.S. official argued that Latin American nations need to strengthen their police forces, legal systems and other public institutions, which often are very corrupt. But this is a Catch-22, since the drug trade is one of the biggest corrupters of these institutions. And, the fact that huge quantities of drugs are imported into the U.S. every year and distributed all across its territory demonstrates that even relatively strong institutions aren't enough.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Canis Maximus said...

The most telling failure of the War on Some Drugs is the unfettered ability to obtain almost ANYTHING inside a U.S. prison. The US now has more people in prison for "drugs" than the rest of the world has PRISONERS!

What waste of people and money. Just to enrich the prison industry, the law enforcement industry, the drug-testing industry, and to get politicians re-elected because they are "tough on drugs."

The U.S. will never allow legalization. Too much money in Prohibition.

Miguel said...

Hi Canis,

I agree that there's a strong lobby from prison unions and the prison-building industry, which promotes tougher laws on drugs and everything else.

Legalization is making slow progress in the U.S. (Did you see evangelical Pat Robertson's comments?) After all, not long ago I would have said that a black U.S. president and gay marriage were a long, long way off.


Colin said...

"We have created an American gulag" - former American drug czar Barry McCaffrey.

Miguel said...

Someone said that building more prisons to combat crime is like building more cemeteries to combat death.

The analogy isn't perfect, but is interesting.