“What Drug Law do we need?” Through this slogan, a “villero” priest, a judge, a psychologist and an activist in cannabis questioned congress members who have written various projects in order to reform the Drug Law 23.737. This debate took place in the first panel discussion of the 10th National Conference on Drug Policies which took place Thursday, 7th June in the “Salón Azul” of the National Senate (Senado de la Nación) and was organized by the civil association Intercambios.
At 6h15pm, the exposition is expected of the Vice President, Amado Boudou, about the reform under discussion.
(Buenos Aires, 7/06/2012; 2:00 pm) Why not set up centers for drug users before sanctioning the law? Growers’ associations are going to be allowed? Do you take into account that the new regulation should be adjusted in order to have no inconsistencies and that consumers do not end up penalized due to illicit associations? What alternatives to incarceration as a form of healing on drug issues are covered? All these questions had been asked to legislators this morning in the 10th National Conference on Drug Policies which took place in the National Senate (Senado de la Nación).
In a brief introduction given by the representatives, Manuel Garrido asserted that the fact that the Congress “is working on it nowadays, is encouraging and shows a concordance between the different powers” because these projects reflected the judgment of the Supreme Court which declared unconstitutional the criminalization of possession for consumption. Adriana Puggrós, for her part, emphasized that the project which is promoted “is in charge of all that concerns harm reduction and also two key themes: the theme of social justice and of the decision on penalties. We also present a Program of Prevention and Treatment for Problematic Consumption of Drugs which affects all the public and private organisations of the country, in order to care for all addicted people.”
For Fabián Peralta, “what the Court ruled through the judgment is not simply one more opinion to consider or not: the Congress is indebted with this judgment and hopes that it can settle this debt soon”. For her part, Victoria Donda assured that “this is the kind of law which is voted on in the Congress but which is won in the streets”. Regarding one of the most controversial points, she said that: “We think that the better thing to do is to repeal simple possession, but we are reaching a consensus with other projects”.
The judge Adrián Grunberg made various observations on what the projects predict in terms of penalties for the “mules” and people who sell for personal consumption, who could be framed as part of illicit associations and said that “the project of the representative Puigross is interesting because it considerst acquitting people who are in positions of extreme vulnerability”.
Father Charly said that although decriminalization is “fair”, to his mind it is not “strategic, because we see that there is a number of violated rights that will not be guaranteed, rights of kids who do not have the ability to install a theme in the agenda” and he asked: “Why, before decriminalizing do we not explain the difference between decriminalization and legalization? Why do we not “settle” the territories of care devices for drug users before?”
Victoria Donda answered:” We agree that it is necessary to have a comprehensive reform, but we can not keep saying “guys, while I am fighting for a more comprehensive reform, the police will continue detaining for consumption”. The Representative added: “Moreover, we think that if it is no longer in the criminal field, it is going to be clearer for everyone that it is a health problem.”
Adriana Puiggrós added that “when the society says “criminal” to speak about a child who takes drugs or a woman who acts as a mule, it is necessary to explain that they are not. And it is not enough that educators explain that, it is necessary that the law say it too.” Garrido, meanwhile, noted that: “a lot of money spent on prosecuting drug users should be devoted to Health and to prosecute complex crime” and that the current law creates stigmatization and persecution. “With this reform, we are going to eliminate some of the violations of the human rights” he concluded.
Then, Ignacio Canabal claimed that it is necessary to stop penalizing mules and small retailers and, in terms of self-cultivation, he suggested thinking of drug-users associations as a means of access to substances, “which could also allow better control by the State”. Finally, Ana Tisera warned that “things get worse when the patients with mental health problems are compounded by consumption of drugs. They are denied access to devices because some colleagues prefer not working with mental suffering cases when there are situations of consumption”.
The Conference continues with the presentation of João Castel-Branco Goulão, current President of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDAA). Portugal’s experience in term of regulation of the personal consumption is cited as an example throughout the world, since it reduced the rates of drug-related crimes and favoured drug-users access to Health treatments.
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