Fresh Thinking on Drug Use

4/12/16 Human Rights Watch

drugsFor the past decade, Mexico has pursued a “war on drugs” with catastrophic consequences — drug-related violence has taken the lives of tens of thousands of people. Last month, the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled that prohibiting the personal use of marijuana violates a constitutional right to the “free development of one’s personality.” The ruling, while limited to marijuana, represents an important step toward a new approach to drug policy that could help make Mexicans healthier and safer.

We hope that Brazil´s Supreme Court will follow Mexico’s example. The Brazilian court is considering whether a law that makes possession of drugs for personal use a crime violates a constitutional right to privacy. If the court strikes down the law, Brazil will join a growing list of countries that are liberalizing their policies toward drug use – from Portugal, which in 2001 decriminalized the personal use of all drugs without apparent ill effect, to Uruguay, which in 2013 became the first country fully to legalize and regulate marijuana.

Even the United States, traditionally one of the most zealous enforcers of a prohibitionist approach to drug control, is starting to soften. Almost half of its 50 states have legalized marijuana in some form, and the Obama administration is taking a hands-off approach to the states’ experiments.

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