Thursday, February 25, 2010

Latin America Marijuana Movement May Undercut Drug War, UN Says

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- A growing movement in Latin America to
decriminalize possession of marijuana and other illegal drugs may
undermine global efforts to combat narcotics, a United Nations group

The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board, in its annual
report today, said it is "concerned" that Argentina, Brazil,
Colombia and Mexico are promoting possession of drugs, especially
marijuana, for personal use.

If not "resolutely countered", the decriminalization movement
"poses a threat" to the "coherence and effectiveness" of
the international drug control system and sends "the wrong message
to the general public," the report said.

Last year, Argentina's Supreme Court declared the punishment of
people possessing cannabis for personal use unconstitutional. Mexico
decriminalized possessing small amounts of illicit drugs for personal
use. Brazil has also taken steps to partially decriminalize drug
possession, including replacing prison sentences with treatment and
educational measures.

The INCB, started in 1968 to monitor international narcotics laws, said
it regrets that "influential personalities, including former
high-level politicians in countries in South America, have publicly
expressed their support for that movement."

Pressuring Obama

Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso led a group of
Latin American experts and former leaders who criticized the U.S.-led
war on drugs in the region last year. In their report, the Latin
American Commission on Drugs and Democracy urged U.S. President Barack
Obama to decriminalize marijuana and treat drug use as a public health

The Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute and Washington Office on
Latin America, a policy research organization, said today in a statement
that the INCB's report "clearly oversteps" the group's
mandate and represents "unwarranted intrusions into these
countries' sovereign decision-making."

"There are too many consumers and small-time drug offenders
overcrowding Latin American jails," Pien Metaal, a drug policy
researcher for the Transnational Institute, said in the statement.
"Part of the overcrowding problem stem from disproportionate prison
sentences for non-violent offenders."

Latin America is the world's largest exporter of cocaine and
cannabis and a major supplier of the opium and heroin, the UN said.

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