Latin America: Argentine Appeals Court Throws Out Ecstasy Case, Says Pills Were for "Personal Use"

Continuing their slow crawl toward the effective decriminalization of drug possession, the Argentine courts have again thrown out a drug case, ruling it should not be prosecuted because the drugs were for "personal use." The case is only the latest in a line of cases dating back to 2006 where Argentine courts have declared the country's drug laws invalid when it comes to possessing small amounts of drugs.

In the present case, a young Argentine was arrested at a rave in Buenos Aires as he purchased 15 Ecstasy tablets for himself and seven comrades. The trial judge ordered that the case move forward because he found that the young man had bought the drugs either to sell them or to use himself.

But the Federal Court of Appeals for Buenos Aires overruled the trial judge, saying "it was not possible to discard the possibility that the narcotics were for personal use." Citing a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that it was the burden of the state "to demonstrate unequivocally that the drugs were not for personal use," the appeals court held that the portion of the country's drug law regarding drug possession must be declared unconstitutional.

Similarly, in late March, Buenos Aires judges threw out the case of two people arrested for growing pot plants. In that case, too, the judges found that the portion of the law punishing people with jail time for growing plants for personal use was unconstitutional. According to the judges, "the quantity and the circumstances that surrounded this case allow them to affirm that the cultivation or sowing of marijuana was for personal consumption."

While the lower courts are not shy about declaring portions of the drug law unconstitutional, it is the Argentine Supreme Court that is the ultimate arbiter. But the decisions from the lower courts are piling up.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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