Ecuador Moving Closer To Decriminalizing Drug Use

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (r) with Vice President Jorge Glas in Quito
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (r) with Vice President Jorge Glas in Quito

More common sense from Latin America on drug decriminalization.

Ecuador could become the second Latin American country to largely decriminalize drug use if legislation that will be debated later this month is approved.

“Treating the drug phenomenon in a repressive way, as was done in the 1980s and 1990s when prison was the only destination for the drug consumer, is absurd,” Carlos Velasco, chairman of the Ecuadorean congress’ Commission of the Right to Health and author of the bill, wrote on his Facebook page earlier this month.

“For this reason,” Velasco, a member of President Rafael Correa’s Alianza Pais party, continued,” we need a new approach to the treatment of this phenomenon, with mechanisms to establish a system of prevention of the comprehensive use of drugs, to go from the phase of education, to rehabilitation and reintegration. Repression, mistreatment.. and jail is not the solution to stopping drug use.”

The Global Post reported last week that the bill, named the ‘Organic Law of the Comprehensive Prevention of the Use of Drugs and Controlled Substances’, would manage narcotics use “not by control, repression or even criminalization, but from the perspective of prevention.”

That would include providing treatment and rehabilitation, and replacing jail with small fines, for drug users. Dealers would still face time behind bars, although less than previously.

If passed, the bill would finally put into practice some of the broader principles of Ecuador’s 2008 constitution, drawn up by Correa’s leftist Country Alliance grouping. Article 364 views drug use as a public health matter rather than one of law and order. Yet earlier laws with draconian sentences have remained in effect in Ecuador.

But the softening of drug policy had already begun last fall with the release of several hundred convicted cocaine smugglers and drug mules under a provision of a new criminal law that took effect in August. The majority of smugglers or mules, supporters of the law argued, were poor, driven by poverty to moving small amounts of drugs. More than 2,000 are expected to be released.

Ecuador’s bill could become the second strong Latin American push away from Washington’s long fought “War on Drugs”, a policy largely seen as a failure in the region –and elsewhere in the world– that’s been ravaged by drugs over the past several decades.

In 2013, Uruguay legalized marijuana and is currently developing a government-run system of regulating, growing and distributing.

Ecuador produces very little cocaine but nestled between Peru and Colombia, major producers of the drug, has become an important distribution hub.

And for the record, today’s Pic du Jour, the blog’s 463rd straight, was snapped on 13-Apr-2015, in Quito’s Plaza Grande.


  • 4
More Stories
Recuerdo Profundo by Jimenez Deredia
Scab Cab Ride