Ecuador Looks to Decriminalize Cannabis (and All Drugs)
May 6th, 2015
Policy, Top News
Ecuador is considering the decriminalization of all illegal drugs – including cannabis – in a bill authored by Carlos Velasco. While unconventional in most of the world, the law is intended to put an end to the country’s war on drugs by providing drug users with treatment options and rehabilitation instead of sending them to jail, and some countries like Portugal have already implemented the strategy.
Mr. Velasco’s bill has many supporters throughout the country, but the opposition believes that its implementation would only encourage additional drug use. The fate of the bill will be decided later this month when its debated by Ecuadorian lawmakers before being signed into a formal law.
Portugal’s implementation of a similar law in 2001 has been a resounding success. If someone is found in possession of less than a 10-day supply of drugs (which makes them a non-dealer), they are sent to a three-person commission that recommends treatment, a minor fine, or no penalty at all. The majority of the time offenders are released with no penalty at all for their drug use.
The country’s number of drug users, past-year users, and past-month users have all been on the decline over time, suggesting that the unconventional policy may be working far better than the traditional war on drugs. In addition, HIV infection rates have decreased, drug-induced deaths have steeply declined, and there was a surge in visits to health clinics that deal with addiction and disease.
However, it’s also worth noting that many other changes occurring within Portugal may also help explain the improvements. For instance, the country expanded its welfare system in the form of a guaranteed minimum income, which has provided additional resources to the poor for accessing health. The key point, however, is that it’s treating addiction as a health problem rather than a moral problem.
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