Politicians in Ecuador are considering a new bill to decriminalize drug use.
The bill was drafted by the Commission of the Right to Health and suggests Ecuador implement a new system of health care and rehabilitation rather than sending offenders to jail. It also outlines the need for a drug education program in the country.
“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,” said the bill’s author Carlos Velasco, and chair of the commission on his Facebook page.
If the bill wins support, Ecuador will be the second country in Latin America to take steps toward genuine drug reform, following Uruguay, which fully legalized marijuana in 2013.
Backing for decriminalization has been growing for more than a decade. Much of the evidence in favor of change comes from Portugal, which voted for the decriminalization of drug possession in 2001. Since the implementation of their reforms, drug-induced deaths, teen drug-use, and HIV and AIDS have declined. The number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction has increased significantly.
With its Andean neighbors Colombia and Peru, the two largest producers of cocaine in the world, Ecuador has become part of a major trafficking route. However, public support for drug reform in Ecuador appears to be widespread, and, according to Article 364 of the constitution, drug use is a public health matter rather than one of law and order. In reform efforts already underway, thousands of drug mules have been freed from custody.
In the U.K., decriminalization has become an election issue, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and entrepreneur Richard Branson teaming up to write an opinion piece in The Guardian in favor of the move. The article called the war on drugs an “abject failure.”
“As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns,” said the authors. “If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago. This is not what success looks like.”