- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Argentina became the second Latin American country this week, after Mexico, to make a major step toward drug legalization after a decision by the country’s supreme court:
The judges say the government should go after major traffickers and provide treatment to consumers, not jail.
The court struck down a law providing for up to two years in prison for possession of small amounts of narcotics.
The case involved several young men caught with marijuana cigarettes in their pockets.
The decision doesn’t legalize drug possession outright. But Argentina’s Cabinet chief favors decriminalizing drug consumption, and was waiting for Tuesday’s ruling before forwarding a proposed law to Congress.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has called for decriminalization as well. With Brazil and Ecuardor considering similar measures, Latin America seems to be going through a major rethink on drug policy. This year’s report by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which was chaired by three former regional presidents and included my boss, may have been a big factor as well.
What effect this will have on the drug debate north of the border remains to be seen. U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has taken a "wait-and-see attitude" toward Mexico’s decriminalization. Despite the developments in Latin America, the Obama adminsitration probably isn’t going to touch drug policy right now given everything else on the agenda, (not that this has stopped Barney Frank.) but it does feel like there’s a shift going on in the global debate.