Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mexico City Lawmakers to Present Marijuana Reform Bill

Three local lawmakers of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in Mexico City are poised to present a bill next week which would expand marijuana decriminalization in the capital city. It also seeks to assert a constitutional justification for state and local governments to set their own drug policies beyond federal regulations, potentially paving the way for other states in Mexico to follow suit.

While the bill has been pending since last fall, Milenio reports that its sponsors, PRD lawmakers Esthela Damian, Daniel Ordoñez and Efrain Morales, will finally submit the draft law to Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly next week. Drug policy expert Aram Barra told Animal Politico that the bill was initially meant to be presented to the legislative body in December, but that some members of the civil society/legislative working group backing the bill suggested this be postponed to seek input from Mexico City health authorities. The bill’s supporters include academics from UNAM, the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) as well as drug policy and citizen security reform groups Espolea, the Collective for an Integrated Drug Policy (CUPIHD) and Mexico United Against Crime (MUCD), according to Barra.

The bill does not appear to be available online yet, but a version obtained by El Universal in December included provisions which would set up dispensaries around the city to provide users with safe access to the drug, as well as information about the associated risks and how to seek treatment for drug addiction. It would build off a 2009 federal law which decriminalized the possession of up to 5 grams of marijuana and small amounts of other drugs.

For drug policy reform advocates, perhaps the most important element of the bill is its inclusion of a constitutional basis for allowing the capital to create its own drug policy regime. According to Barra the legislation fits under the penal reforms guaranteed to state and local governments, “using the criteria enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.”

Securing this could allow other jurisdictions in the country to relax their drug laws beyond federal law in the future. Although surveys suggest that only a minority of Mexicans currently support marijuana legalization, support is greater among Mexico's youth and an Excelsior poll published in November demonstrated that roughly three-quarters (74 percent) of the country is in favor of legalizing the drug for medical use.

News Briefs
  • In other news on the drug policy front, the recently-implemented marijuana legalization initiative in Colorado has won a surprising endorsement from El Tiempo, the most widely-distributed newspaper in Colombia. In an editorial published yesterday, the Bogota-based paper called the Colorado law part of “an urgent and necessary reframing of the war on drugs.”
  • Caracol Radio reports that in a new communiqué, Colombia’s FARC guerrillas have questioned the Colombian government’s commitment to peace talks, alleging that the recent Washington Post report on the extensive CIA collusion with counterinsurgency efforts “raises doubts about the true role of the fatherland-betraying Colombian oligarchy” in negotiations.
  • Despite the fact that the two countries could barely agree to a meeting place for talks yesterday, the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic apparently found some common ground, EFE and Reuters report. According to the news wires, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and Dominican Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo told reporters their countries had reached an understanding. The Listin Diario reports that Haiti has recognized the Dominican government’s sovereign right to determine its citizenship criteria, although Lamothe urged his counterpart to protect the rights of people of Haitian origin. The AP reports that Dominican authorities, meanwhile, have agreed to provide temporary papers to Haitians who work in the country.
  • The scandal over allegations that former Salvadoran President Francisco Flores embezzled aid money provided by the Taiwanese government has deepened, after Flores told a congressional panel yesterday that he had received 15 or 20 million dollars from Taiwan in the wake of a devastating 2001 earthquake. However, Flores insisted that he never used the money for his own enrichment. President Mauricio Funes has recalled the Salvadoran ambassador to Taiwan, saying that the country had not been properly assisting an investigation into the donations.
  • Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo reports on a highly graphic video leaked to the paper by a union of penitentiary workers, which purports to show the bodies of three decapitated inmates on display in a prison yard after a December riot in a Maranhão state penal facility. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the controversy following the video’s leak has focused attention on substandard prison conditions in the country.
  • In compliance with a court order, Brazilian military and police officials have begun evicting illegal ranchers and loggers from land in the northeastern Maranhão state belonging to the Awá people. The move has been hailed as a rare victory for indigenous rights advocates, The Guardian reports.
  • Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who is visiting Cuba this week, has called on the European Union to revisit its restrictions on Cuban relations.  Timmermans signed an agreement with his Cuban counterpart to encourage diplomatic engagement, and remarked to reporters that dialogue is a more effective way to promote reforms on the island than isolation, according to Reuters.
  • In Venezuela, the Monday night murder of former Miss Venezuela and actress Monica Spear Mootz, along with her husband, is making waves. As the AP reports, the two were killed by unknown gunmen after their car broke down hours outside of Caracas. The incident has sparked a national debate over insecurity in the country, with President Nicolas Maduro calling it a “massacre” and Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez announcing a restructuring of police forces, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • NPR has an update on Venezuelan reactions to the recently-launched “Vice Ministry for the Supreme Social Happiness of the Venezuelan People,” which has earned criticism from government opponents as an example of the allegedly deepening bureaucracy in the country.
  • In Foreign Policy, senior Human Rights Watch researcher Nik Steinberg writes on disappearances linked to Mexico's drug-fueled violence, and on the government’s alarming lack of commitment to effectively prosecuting cases of disappearances and setting up a functional database of individuals who have gone missing.
  • The Chilean Supreme Court has closed an official investigation into the death of former President Salvador Allende, confirming the results of a 2011 inquest which determined that Allende’s death was a suicide. The BBC and El Mostrador report that the decision rejects several appeals for the investigation to be reopened. 

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