Uruguay Calls For Global Drug Policy To Emphasize Human Rights

Milton Romani Gerner, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the OAS

Uruguay’s National Drug Board released a report to the High Commissioner of Human Rights of the United Nations on shifting drug policy toward a human rights perspective.

The initiative [PDF], proposed on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, consists of 10 guidelines. One point decriminalizes drug use and ends the death penalty for it. Another point emphasizes respect for different cultures and plans to reduce drug use.

The report found the current approach violating rights of citizens, and a new way of thinking was needed:

The rights of life, liberty and personal security have been violated by [current] drug policy.  Government intervention threatens fundamental rights like when prohibition produces—an unintended effect—powerful and violent illegal markets that threaten the a person’s and community’s security without the state adopting effective protection measures.

Juan Andres Roballo, head of the National Drug Board, stressed the importance of patience in regards to overall drug policy:

We are aware that we cannot obtain automatic, immediate results, but, with a firm and sustained policy, in time we are sure we will have effective results.

Uruguay, as noted by officials associated with the board, is an interesting case. The country legalized cannabis in 2013. When Uruguay passed the measure, it was viewed as a bold move as no other nation fully decided to legalize cannabis.

Roballo noted how such a policy could be helpful in pushing for such a change in drug policy:

[We need to] maintain this status on the national and international level to provide a consist outline in this discussion and the actions of the state directly affect our community and world population.

Milton Romani, secretary-general of the National Drug Board, said it was important to “respect the diversity of approach” in regards to drug policy:

We need to look for paths where there is inclusive consensus, not exclusive. Why refuse to include good practices and models like reduction of harm?

A resolution deriving from the 10 guidelines is scheduled for a vote at next year’s UN General Assembly meeting.

Creative Commons Licensed Image from Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS

If Only Chicago Police Treated All Marijuana Smokers As If They Were Deadheads

Tens of thousands of fans of the Grateful Dead traveled to Chicago for the final three reunion concerts, which the band’s “core four” musicians will likely ever perform. Police knew numerous fans would smoke marijuana. However, police only made one arrest for cannabis possession in violation of the city’s ordinance against public weed consumption.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported, “Chicago Police officers made only one arrest for possession of cannabis on Friday and wrote only two possession of cannabis tickets Sunday in connection with the concerts.”

“While in most cases cannabis possession is a ticketable offense, as residents would expect CPD’s primary focus was on fighting violent crime and addressing the illegal guns that threaten our communities,” Chicago Police Department communications director Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement emailed to the Sun-Times.

This could be considered common sense policing if it were not for the fact that the Deadheads in attendance were primarily white. Tickets for the “Fare Thee Well” concerts at Soldier Field were not necessarily cheap and ranged from $59.50-$199.50. So, many of the fans were from the middle and upper class.

In March, the Sun-Times reported that blacks were “busted 16 times more than whites for small amounts of pot in 2014—including tickets and arrests. And four every white Chicagoan busted for marijuana, four Hispanics were busted, according to police statistics. Those stats come despite the fact that white Chicagoans outnumber both black and Hispanic Chicagoans by a ratio of approximately 3-to-2.”

Charlene Carruthers of Black Youth Project 100 told the Sun-Times, “It’s hyper-surveillance and harassment for what shouldn’t even be an offense. No one should be arrested for having 15 grams of marijuana or less. Even the cost of a ticket could throw someone into a very difficult situation.”

Citations can range from $250 to $500.

The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy put out a report in May 2014 that showed all of the neighborhoods in the top 20 percent for marijuana arrests, except for one, was “majority black.”

According to the FBI, Cook County, where Chicago is located, had the “biggest racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests among the 25 most populous counties in the nation in 2010.” (more…)