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Argentina Decriminalizes Marijuana

Just days after the Mexican Congress decriminalized marijuana, Argentina’s judiciary has followed suit. In a case involving five youths in possession of some "marijuana cigarettes," the Argentine Supreme Court declared, unanimously, "the unconstitutionality of prison for private consumption."

The justices’ logic smacks of horse sense:

Supreme Court Justice Carlos Fayt, who at one time supported laws that make personal use of marijuana illegal, told the state-run Telam news agency that "reality" changed his mind.

"Each individual adult is responsible for making decisions freely about their desired lifestyle without state interference," their ruling said. "Private conduct is allowed unless it constitutes a real danger or causes damage to property or the rights of others."

This Latin embrace of decriminalization is anything but unexpected. Back in February of this year, former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico very publicly urged Obama to decriminalize marijuana.

“It makes no sense to continue a policy on moral grounds without getting the desired results,” said Gaviria [former president of Colombia] “Obama, being a pragmatist, should recognize these failures.”

That recognition has yet to come, but wonks and sober-minded activists are speaking up, working to create political space that an Obama, or any other future president, might occupy.

"It seems quite clear that drug policy based primarily on interdiction and enforcement has failed," said Robert Pastor, a Latin America national security adviser for President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. "Therefore, it’s natural for people to stand back and ask, ‘Is there a better way?’ "

 These efforts are still timid, and largely at the fringes, if not in the shadows, of the national spotlight. But as more and more nations in our hemisphere decriminalize – and I believe that we will see this ripple throughout South America in the next couple years – positive results will make the "better way" apparent to anyone willing to look south.

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Lance Steagall

Lance Steagall

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