"The state cannot establish morality," the judge said.
Mexico and Argentina ease drug possession law
People’s willingness to use drugs is a police issue in most nations, which not only makes vicious people very wealthy but also makes the governments of those nations very corrupt - not the kind of governments that should be in the business of taxing people. But a government capable of dealing with drug use sensibly might also be one capable of dealing with the power to tax sensibly, and use that power to recover the socially-generated value of land and resources. We trim, blend, and append two 2009 articles from the BBC, of August 21 on Mexico and of August 26 on Argentina.
by Stephen Gibbs and BBCThe Mexican government has enacted a law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine and heroin.
Mexican prosecutors say the move does not amount to legalization.
They say it is designed to prevent corrupt police from seeking bribes from small-time drug users, and to encourage addicts to seek treatment.
The move comes amid a drug war in Mexico that has claimed more than 11,000 lives in the last three years.
Those found in possession of the equivalent of four joints of marijuana, or four lines of cocaine will no longer be viewed as criminals.
Instead they will be encouraged to seek government-funded drug treatment, which will be compulsory if users are caught a third time.
The new law applies to a wide range of drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine.
The Mexican attorney general's office says that, previously, individual police officers could choose whether to arrest or just caution small-time drug users, a situation which encouraged bribery.
It is hoped this change will free up police time to tackle major drug traffickers.
Since President Felipe Calderon launched his military crackdown on the Mexican cartels three years ago, almost 100,000 people have been detained on minor drug possession charges.
The vast majority are later released without charge.
Despite this change in the law, the Mexican government says it has no intention of permitting full legalization of drugs - which some analysts suggest is the only way to take the trade from the hands of criminal gangs.
Mr Calderon has said that such a move would be "suicidal" for Mexican society.
Argentina rules on marijuana use
The supreme court in Argentina has ruled that it is unconstitutional to punish people for using marijuana for personal consumption.
The decision follows a case of five young men who were arrested with a few marijuana cigarettes in their pockets.
But the court said use must not harm others and made it clear it did not advocate a complete decriminalization.
Correspondents say there is a growing momentum in Latin America towards decriminalizing drugs for personal use.
The Argentine court ruled that: "Each adult is free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state."
Supreme Court President Ricardo Lorenzetti said private behaviour was legal, "as long as it doesn't constitute clear danger".
"The state cannot establish morality," he said.
The initiative has been supported by the government; Congress is expected to introduce amendments to the current drug laws.
But the court said it was not advocating a complete decriminalization of the drug -- a move possibly aimed at deflecting criticism from the Church and conservatives, says the BBC's Candace Piette in Buenos Aires.
The eight-page statement also called for a comprehensive policy against illegal drug trafficking.
The move has been criticized by some campaign groups who say it will encourage damaging behavior and lead to health problems.
"There will be an increase in the drug trade and the people that fall into addiction will not, unfortunately, access treatment," Claudio Izaguirre, director of the Argentine Anti-drugs Association told Reuters.
"My country doesn't have the necessary health coverage for what will happen," he said.
Argentina's move follows rulings by several other countries across the region, including Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia.
Last week, Mexico enacted a law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine and heroin -- the country is in the midst of a drugs turf war which has claimed more than 11,000 lives in the last three years.
The aim of such moves is to enable police to focus their efforts on the big criminals in the drugs trade rather than dealing with petty cases, says our correspondent.
But it also marks a shift a dramatic regional shift to the decades-old US-backed policy of running repressive military-style wars on the drug trade, she adds.
Mainstream media gives voice to reason
Government needs to trim its budget somehow
Pew study finds …
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?