Colombia: Colombian High Court Re-Legalizes Drug Possession

Colombia: Colombian High Court Re-Legalizes Drug Possession.

Between the 1994 ruling and the 2009 amendment, Colombian adults were allowed to legally possess up to 20 grams of marijuana, one gram of cocaine, and two grams of synthetic drugs. After Uribe's reform, people arrested with small amounts of illegal drugs faced prison sentences of 64 to 108 months. The ruling overturning Uribe's amendment came in the case of Juan Carlos Vela Gomez, a teenager sentenced to five years in prison after being caught with 80 grams of marijuana. Although Vela Gomez carried more than the 20 gram personal use amount, the court still found that subjecting him to a lengthy prison sentence violated "personal freedoms."

The move is a welcome step and one in line with drug policy reforms in other Latin American countries, but as Insight Crime noted, Colombia still has some of the most repressive drug policies in the region. More than 12,000 were doing time for drug crimes in Colombian prisons at the end of 2009, up 3% over 2003, and most of them are believed to be low-level offenders, including drug couriers and coca-leaf pickers. Colombia has received around $6 billion in US anti-drug assistance since the inauguration of Plan Colombia in the late 1990s.

USA: Arkansas Relaxes Marijuana Possession Penalties

As of September 2, a new law that relaxes the penalty for some marijuana offenses has gone into effect in Arkansas.

Under the new law, people caught in possession of up to four ounces may be sentenced to a year's probation without formal charge, at the judge's discretion. Under the new law, existing penalties for pot possession still remain. Offenders can still be sentenced to up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. But now, judges can opt for the sentence of probation with no criminal record.

Also, under the previous Arkansas law, possession of anything more than an ounce was punished by four to 10 days in jail and large fines. Now, someone possessing as much as four ounces will be eligible for probation. The new law also lessons the penalties for repeat possession offenders and makes possession with the intent to deliver small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The law was passed last spring by the legislature and backed by Gov. Mike Beebe, who signed it into law in March.

USA: Outlawed synthetic marijuana finds a market in Kansas, Missouri

When it was legal in both Missouri and Kansas, the herb-based product known as synthetic marijuana was sold openly in coffeehouses, convenience stores and gas stations across the area.

But since legislators outlawed it last year, it appears to have moved out of the stores and into the streets, where police are finding it with regularity.Kansas City police reported that investigators recovered more than 12 pounds of synthetic marijuana during an early August violent-crime initiative.It was by far the largest amount of drugs seized in the three-day sweep -- more than the amounts of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine combined, according to the figures released by police."We're just raking it in," said Kansas City police Sgt.Brad Dumit."We're seeing it all over the place." In another raid earlier this year, police recovered about 10,000 packets of synthetic marijuana, each weighing 3 to 5 grams, according to Maj. 

Jan Zimmerman, commander of the narcotics and vice division of the Kansas City Police Department. More recently, a citizen complaint led to the seizure of 1,000 grams at a retail establishment, she said. Most commonly known as K2 or K3, it also is called "spice" or a potpourri of other monikers, such as "syn smooth," "blueberry meltdown" and "head trip." Lawmakers in both Kansas and Missouri last year outlawed chemicals used to produce it. But a combination of entrepreneurial spirit and chemical know-how led to slight variations in the drug's chemical makeup that weren't covered by the law, allowing the colorfully named and packaged substances to once again proliferate. "It's hard to stay ahead of designer drugs," said Sen.Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican."People designing them can be very creative."

Law enforcement officials in both states went back to lawmakers, who this year approved new laws covering the entire class of chemical compounds that were being used to circumvent the previous laws. "I think the new law covers all of those variables," Zimmerman said of the new Missouri law."The new legislation closes that loophole."

Brought to you by The Greenish Warbler

September 13th 2011

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