Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another Three Bite the Dust

History was made last week. What? You didn’t hear about it? Maybe that’s because this particular story doesn’t fit in too well with the message the mainstream media is trying to sell you. What I’m talking about is the decriminalization of drugs in Mexico. People can no longer go to jail for personal possession of small amounts of any controlled substance. At least not after the new law goes into effect. And when I say “small,” I’m talking really small. The limit for marijuana is five grams, and for cocaine it’s half a gram. If you are caught with the specified amount or less, you are encouraged to seek treatment. If you are caught three times, treatment is mandatory. That’s it. No jail or criminal record.

Granted, this is a very small step. It will likely do nothing to impact the extreme violence in Mexico caused in big part by the U.S.’s prohibitionist policies. Cartels will continue to kill and be killed by the authorities in record numbers. So other than refocusing the efforts of the Mexican police, there will probably be very little immediate effect. “So, what’s the big deal?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you asked. The big deal is that this very same legislation was proposed in Mexico less that three years ago. The result? The good ol’ U.S. of A. threw a hissy fit. It might have been a conniption, I’m not sure. But the point is, the U.S. told Mexico that such a law was not acceptable. Prohibition was the one and only way to deal with the drug menace. And of course Mexico said, “Yes sir. Thank you sir, may I have another.” End of story.

But things seem to have changed here in the land of the free. This time, the Mexican legislation was proposed and passed with nary a word from the bully to the north. Zip. Nada. No response whatsoever. In fact, you might even think that we are trying to avoid the issue entirely. It’s kind of like if we just ignore the Mexican’s attempt at a sensible drug policy, it will just go away and leave us alone. But that’s OK. Progress is progress, no matter how small or how quiet it’s kept.

But wait, there’s more. At the same time that Mexico was making history, drugs were decriminalized in Argentina as well. Well, sort of. The Argentinean supreme court unanimously ruled that it is unconstitutional to punish an adult for the private use of marijuana as long as that use doesn't harm anyone else. Now this is not quite the same as actually changing legislation, but it’s pretty close. This ruling will force the Argentinean legislature to reconsider their drug laws. As if that wasn’t enough, earlier this year a Brazilian court made a similar ruling. That’s right, possession of a controlled substance for personal use is no longer against the law in Brazil.

So that makes three – count them, three – nations in this hemisphere that have eliminated criminal penalties for the personal possession of controlled substances. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel just a little optimistic again. Just when I thought things were back to normal and there was no hope. If this keeps up, my optimism might just become a habit. Now if they’d just stop raiding medical marijuana dispensaries in this country, as was promised, I might very well become downright giddy. Nah. That’ll never happen.