Home » Side event: Criminalization and persecution vs. Health and development: The path forward

Side event: Criminalization and persecution vs. Health and development: The path forward

Organized by the International Drug Policy Consortium, Acción Técnica Social, Center of Studies for Law, Justice and Society, the Brazilian Drug Policy Platform, Fundación Friedrich Ebert en Colombia, Elementa, and Instituto RIA.

Mariano Fusero (Remove term: RESET – Política de Drogas y Derechos Humanos): Since the end of the 90s to 2017 the prison population has increased by 17%. This has been increasing in recent years, given to a policy that is criminalizing users. Regarding public health, there are studies at an international level that show that treatments are 7 times more effective than the reduction of supply efforts. Our country has something quite perverse because the phenomenon is still visible in terms of punishability. This has a different impact on women in an increasing context of the feminization of poverty, considering that 43% of women in prison are accused of drug-related crimes. Around 15,000 women are in prison for minor offenses, which do not exceed 4 years in prison, and the majority without criminal records. This mainly affects trans women and the LGBT community. With this in mins, what is expected is that consumption has decreased. However, in 2017, we see that 8.3% of the population is using substances. In this international context there are positions regarding how this has affected traffic, for example, having an impact on the price of substances, which affects accessibility (more expensive substances are less accessible). We must remember that Argentina is the country that has most devalued its currency. We have a devaluation of approximately 100%, an inflation of 47%, and since it is not a producer of most of the substances, this clearly affects the price of the product. Cocaine is the main commodity, and its value has increased. In terms of quality, the adulterants combined with most substance cause side effects. Criminalization reaches all levels: people who use drugs without information, people who have been surprised with substances, and mothers who use substances for therapeutic purposes.


LUCIANA Zaffalon – Brazilian Platform on Drug Policy: I am here to talk about Brazilian reality. Inequality is our biggest problem. This shows how the country is, and the striking social differences it imposes. How many inmates are prosecuted for drugs? 70% of women are in jail for offenses related with drugs, for possessing small quantities of drugs (namely, two joints of marijuana). If we had this kind of situation in public security, we also need to see the impact of our context in the health of our communities. [SHOWS VIDEO] This is the poorest region in Brazil. Our debate today is around criminalization and health, and how this situation has affected the health and security of Brazilian population. The war on drugs is affecting our collective health, and it is affecting women and mothers disproportionately. I will play a little audio from a favela in Rio de Janeiro [SOUND OF SHOOTINGS]. Can you imagine how it is to live with this in your daily life? That is why we need to change our drug policies in Brazil and all Latin America.

Adriana Muro (Elementa): My name is Adriana, I come from an organization named ELEMENTA. I also have the pleasure to present Acciones Por el Cambio, which is a coalition aiming to promote better drug policies. I am presenting a report today with you, balancing the outcomes of the strategy used on drug policies during the last years. Before this, I would like to address the social and political context in Colombia. But before moving on to the report, I would like to address the political and socioeconomic context in Colombia. On the one hand, we have the peace agreement, signed by the Colombian government and the FARC, which is a milestone in drug policy not only because it puts an end to an armed conflict, but because it qualifies drug policy as a cornerstone. must be considered if you want to build more peaceful societies. The agreement includes a program of voluntary substitution of crops, which is a very important axis; a prevention program with a public health focus (which had not been seen before in Colombian drug policies), a differentiated approach for those people who have been most impacted by the ban, and an analysis of the challenges and opportunities in the area. The peace agreement foresees that international forums and congresses be held to seek solutions and good practices in drug policies. The agreement is an impulse to move towards drug policies with a focus on human rights. However, politics are putting obstacles. As you know, the agreement was submitted to a referendum that had conflicts, in which the company did not agree with some points. Today we see some issues that jeopardize the establishment of the peace agreement, specifically point 4. With this context, as an organization, what we were looking for was to analyze whether Colombia had complied with the stated goals or not. Likewise, the second approach that we involve in this report is that of human rights. In this sense, we analyze the prerequisite right for the enjoyment of other rights: the right to life. In Colombia, after the peace agreement was signed, arrests were reduced, but homicide deaths increased. This has a differentiated impact on the people who lead the crop substitution programs. We are talking about 64 people killed, who were involved in the substitution of crops; and that is when we printed the report, because this week two more people were murdered. There is a reinforced duty of the Colombian government to protect the people who are liberating their crops, based on the text they believe in and are now betting on. In the health area, we see an increase in the use of drugs: 1 and a half million users. I think we are in a fairly schizophrenic situation here. On the one hand, we have a successful sentence form judicial institutions (in 1994 the personal dose is protected), we have made progress with the so-called “dose and provisioning” that allows larger quantities; and we have sentence 15/66 that includes dependency on psychoactive substances in health plans. But even so we have criminalization to the consumption; we have police officers who detain people with personal doses, and this year, we have a regulation that allows certain people to be criminalized by the State. Despite this, we can recognize the positive aspects in terms of health and human rights, which have to do with the continuous work between civil society, government and international cooperation. In the coalition we have organizations that have done a good job setting the example, as Social Technical Action, which is doing syringe exchange, analysis of substances in nightlife spaces, and ensuring access to information to reduce risks, especially for young people. There is a lack of quality treatment. 90% of people in Colombia does not have high quality standards treatment. The problem is that the change of government and the lack of resources mean that there is no follow-up with users. It seems that the mainstreaming completely ignores the gender approach. There is also a lack of policies that address problematic consumption for people in vulnerability, especially for the population living on the streets and the consumption of bazuca. There are 15,000 people deprived of liberty for offenses related with drugs, with differentiated impact on women. The guarantee and compliance with the sustainable axis of the SDGs is not being fulfilled. UNODC has given some figures that demonstrate this. 57% of the families live in a situation of monetary poverty, and 41% of the people enrolled in the replacement program are under 19. Based on this, we believe that the problem should be seen, trying to incorporate the following: 1) Patience; 2) Institutional reconciliation: since the State has not been present in the communities in these years; 3) Connectivity: considering that 58% of the communities do not have access to services. We are talking about guarantee of basic rights, and this is important considering that the country is returning to aerial spraying even though after the Court, under the precautionary principle, prohibited it. We consider it relevant to identify the problem by social welfare indexes, and not by substances. When we see how well people are doing, and not how many crops are being seized, we will be able to implement drug policies with a human rights approach.

Zara Snapp (Instituto RIA, Mexico): A war in Mexico has formally been fought since 2006 under Felipe Calderón administration, resulting in widespread human rights violations. More than 30thousand people who are disappeared (people we don’t know where they are). Civil society organizations are the ones who are mainly recording this numbers, because the government is not following this data. The deployment of security forces have resulted in an increase of almost 600% cases of torture. Moreover, there was a recent study by the senate that indicate that cannabis regulation would decrease 25—30% of the economy of groups. What are the drugs we have in Mexico? Poppy: cultivated and moved to the USA. Actually it is being discussed how poppy regulation could be regulated, which obviously would need to be accompanied with information and improving cultivators conditions. Cannabis: the main psychoactive plant used and cultivated in the country. Cocaine: 87% of which is introduced in the us, passed through Mexico. The strategy of Mexico is focused on taking down big heads instead. Current control regime in Mexico is the general law (at a federal level) with quantities allowed for personal use. When you have possession over the thresholds, the outcomes have differentiated impacts when considered commercial interests or similar criteria. Bribes are requested by police who detain people, and if you don’t have money for that bribe, then you go to jail. The drug courts model have been implemented, and 80% of people we interviewed on these programs, were surprised with lower quantities that the threshold. We have some good news coming from the supreme court. The first court allowed cultivation for personal use under the right of freedom of personality and freedom of autonomy. This was not easy. It started in 2015, and in 2018 we won the last case that created jurisprudence. When someone is brought to our judicial system, they spend two years trying to get permission. How it works? You ask for permission for the regulatory body to get any cannabis product for personal use, they deny it, and then you “sue” (get an amparo), and then the court gives you the amparo, with the permission to have access to cannabis for personal use. The jurisprudence also implies that they have set 90 days for the congress to modify the articles in the general health law. In Mexico, the MORENA party presented a few days after, a bill on the regulation of cannabis for personal, industrial, medical and therapeutical use. It is a very comprehensive bill, and it has more to do for recognizing our realities: we are a primarily producing country. There are three different ways for accessing the product: cultivate for personal use (up to 20 plants, like in Colombia), there will be production cooperatives (with non-profit purposes), and the regulated market (with licenses and giving privilege to a Mexican industry). Some people have been working in the illegality, and they must be incorporated into formal markets. When we think about regulation we frame it within a social justice framework, and we really try to do it under four principles: 1) Actively confronts the dynamics of oppression and privilege; 2) Recognizes the existence of groups that have been historically infringed; 3) Generates affirmative and retributive actions; 4) Destines resources towards the repair of the damages.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *