Newsbrief: Peru to Modify Drug Penalties -- One Step Forward, One Step Back, Some Standing in Place 7/18/03

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The Peruvian government this week announced proposed modifications in the national penal code that will shorten sentences for most drug offenses and leave intact the code's provision barring the prosecution of simple drug use or possession. But the proposed changes would also increase criminal penalties for small-scale drug dealing. The measure is a revision of the Law No. 28002, the country's drug law.

But given the sorry state of the government of President Alejandro Toledo -- his popularity currently hovers in the single digits and his cabinet was just reshuffled in the wake of violent protests resulting in a state of emergency -- and its other urgent priorities, whether the proposal will make it through the parliamentary process while Toledo is still around is an open question.

Among the proposed changes, as reported by El Peruano:

  • Ends life imprisonment.
  • Retains Article 299's exemption from penalty for personal possession and use, but replaces the judge's discretion to determine the amount of drug considered personal with specified, as yet undetermined, quantities.
  • Reduces penalties for possession with the intent to traffic from 8-15 years in prison to 6-12 years. Fines are reduced from 120-180 daily minimum wages to 60-120.
  • Reduces penalties for aggravated drug trafficking from a mandatory minimum 25 years to 15-25 years. Aggravating factors include misusing public office to sell drugs, selling to minors, being a member of a drug-trafficking organization, or selling more than 10 kilograms of cocaine, five of opium, or 100 of marijuana.
  • Creates a penalty of 25-35 years in prison for a "drug lord" -- defined as a person who acts as leader of a drug trafficking organization -- or for someone who uses the traffic to finance terrorism.
  • Increases trigger quantities (exempts more low-level offenders) but increases penalties for small scale trafficking or production ("microcommercialization" or "microproduction"). For sales or production of less than 25 grams of cocaine, five grams of opium, or 100 grams of marijuana, penalties increase from 1-4 years to 6-10 years.

12. Newsbrief: Legalize It, Says Canada's National Post

In a July 11 editorial, Canada's National Post newspaper called for the legalization of marijuana under the headline "Legalize Pot." Aside from the Toronto Globe & Mail, the Post is the only Canadian newspaper considered to have a national reach. The newspaper had supported Prime Minister Chretien's marijuana decriminalization proposal, the editorial noted, but the current medical marijuana snafu -- because of repeated court rulings, the Canadian federal government finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being forced to distribute medical marijuana in order to avoid the collapse of its marijuana laws -- has led the Post to the conclusion that decriminalization isn't enough.

"Outright legalization may be in order," the Post editorialized. "Ottawa finds itself in the strange position of being a de facto pot dealer. This status quo cannot last," not because that would be morally wrong, but because it conflicts with the Post's free market ideology. "Marijuana is a chemically complex substance and only a free-market solution can supply therapeutic users with the variety and quality they seek. Second, it seems wrong as a matter of economics for the federal government to be a drug industry monopolist -- just as it is wrong for provincial governments in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and elsewhere to be booze industry monopolists. When the state gets involved in the sale of state-regulated substances, inefficiencies and conflicts of interest inevitably abound. In the long run, it makes more sense for pot to be treated like tobacco or prescription drugs -- regulated, but not sold by, the government."

It is the issue of medical marijuana that has led to the possibility of legalization, opined the Post. "First, the issue of therapeutic marijuana has created a sense of urgency in regard to drug reform: It is inhumane to deprive AIDS and cancer sufferers of an effective means of pain relief for a day longer than necessary. Second, by bringing a sympathetic, politically active class of marijuana smokers into the public spotlight, therapeutic marijuana has helped debunk the image of pot users as Cheech and Chong-style stoners.

"The result is that public acceptance of marijuana is increasing and even decriminalization now appears inadequate as a reform measure. Hopefully, this change in attitude will soon translate into political action. We look forward to the day when pot decriminalization gives way to pot legalization."

Read the complete editorial online at:

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Issue #296, 7/18/03 Editorial: Tragic Confusion | Medical Marijuana Eroding Capitol Hill Prohibition Consensus -- Democrats Also On Attack against Drug Czar, Drug War in General | With Hip-Hopper's Support, NY Governor Tries Again on Rockefeller Law Reform -- Not Good Enough, Say Critics | Bush, Ashcroft Ask Supreme Court for Permission to Punish Doctors Who Recommend Medical Marijuana | DRCNet Book Review: "Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington's Futile War on Drugs in Latin America," by Ted Galen Carpenter (2003, Palgrave Macmillan, $24.95) | Newsbrief: North Carolina Prosecutor Charges Methamphetamine Cook with Terrorist Offense | Newsbrief: Whites Benefit from California's Proposition 36 Disproportionately, UCLA Study Finds | Newsbrief: No Needle Exchange in Delaware -- Lack of Political Support Cited | Newsbrief: Colombian Supreme Court Blocks President's Effort to Recriminalize Drug Possession | Newsbrief: Brazil to Cooperate in Andean Drug Plane Shoot-Down Strategy | Newsbrief: Peru to Modify Drug Penalties -- One Step Forward, One Step Back, Some Standing in Place | Newsbrief: Legalize It, Says Canada's National Post | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Web Scan: CEDRO, Foreign Policy, Reason, Nation, Working for Change, Washington Post, Molly Ivins,, UN Report, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sentencing Project | The Reformer's Calendar

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