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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Globe Toking: Pot Around the World (Photos)

newsweek.com — A slideshow of how other countries in the world handle marijuana use. The list comprises countries that allow people to use the drug without facing jail time, mandatory drug treatment, or other penalties. 1 day 15 hr ago

The most marijuana-friendly nations

The most marijuana-friendly nations

By Ryan Tracy

Would Proposition 19, the proposal to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana use in California, have really generated the benefits that its proponents claimed? We may never know. But in theory, the answer is hazy for one main reason: Prop 19 would have gone further than any marijuana law on the books anywhere. The policy would have been revolutionary in the U.S., where marijuana is legal only for medical purposes—and that in just 13 states. But not even the world's pot meccas have legalized and taxed the drug from production to consumption, as Prop 19 would have allowed cities in California to do. Drug-policy experts, though, disagree on whether Prop 19 took the right approach. Do other parts of the world have a more sensible system? We've put together a slideshow of how some other countries in the world handle marijuana use.

Netherlands

Netherlands

Not even Amsterdam, home of the Cannabis Cup, has laws like the ones Prop 19 proposes. Cannabis is illegal in the Netherlands, but the Dutch have decided to fight other types of crime and leave pot smokers, like this one smoking a pipe in Amsterdam, alone. Cops also don't bother "coffee shops" that sell marijuana as long as they follow certain rules, like not selling to minors and not selling "hard" drugs such as cocaine (the Dutch consider marijuana a "soft" drug). Prop 19 would make marijuana legal to use for people over the age of 21, though they could not smoke around minors, in public, or on school grounds. The Netherlands' system for regulating cannabis is similar to what Prop 19 proposes: individual municipalities decide how many marijuana retailers they will tolerate by issuing licenses. Licensed "coffee shops," in turn, have to pay taxes. Prop 19 would allow both those things in the state of California, but it would also permit and tax the commercial production of marijuana, sanctioning an industry that could create a huge supply of legal weed. Commercial marijuana production for recreational use is not legal anywhere on the planet.

Portugal

Portugal

Portugal decriminalized all drug use and possession in 2001, meaning that while using or possessing drugs is not legal, authorities don't punish users as they would a criminal offense, like robbery. When drug users are caught, they must appear before a three-person "dissuasion commission," which might mandate treatment if the person is a repeat offender. Drug dealers can still be prosecuted as criminals. A 2009 report by the libertarian Cato Institute found that drug use did not increase in Portugal after decriminalization, but deaths and disease related to drug use have decreased, perhaps because the government now offers better treatment programs for addicts. For some, decriminalization isn't enough, though: above, a pro-legalization March in Lisbon in 2008.

Peru

Peru

While Peru doesn't allow the sale of marijuana, it has gone further than other nations down the path to legalization. It's legal to possess about a third of an ounce (eight grams) of marijuana for personal use, with no fines, treatment programs, or other consequences. Debate about further legalization continues, though President Alan García has come out against the proposals. And the Peruvians are still making drug busts like the one cops are showing off above, in which they seized marijuana hidden in vuvuzelas at a school in Lima.

Argentina

Argentina

Argentina only recently entered the ranks of countries with relatively liberal cannabis policies. Last year a Supreme Court ruling declared that the country's constitution gave "each adult" the right to "make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state," paving the way for citizens like this man to grow cannabis plants on a small scale or use drugs. The court overturned convictions of people who had served jail terms for carrying marijuana. The ruling opened the door for the country's government to decriminalize other drugs as well.

Uruguay

Uruguay

If Argentina is the newest member of the decriminalization club, Uruguay may be the oldest. The nation has never criminalized marijuana for personal use. Its laws have, since 1974, left it up to judges to determine what amount constitutes "personal use" on a case-by-case basis. Still some Uruguayans want more freedom. Above, a man smokes a joint a pro-legalization rally in Montevideo in 2007.

Mexico

Mexico

In August 2009 Mexico decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and other drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Individuals can possess less than a quarter of an ounce (five grams) of marijuana for personal use, though the law states that if a person is caught with small amounts of drugs on three occasions, he will face mandatory drug treatment. On the first and second occasions, treatment is optional. The decision to focus on treatment and leave drug users unprosecuted came in the midst of a bloody war between drug cartels, but young Mexicans are still organizing pro-legalization rallies, like the one above in September 2010.


Belgium

Belgium

Though Belgium has decriminalized marijuana, meaning that possession of up to five grams, or less than a quarter of an ounce, will not lead to a criminal penalty, possession will still net you a fine. The fine of €75 (about $104) is relatively low, however—Luxembourg mandates a fine of €250 for a possessing a small amount of marijuana, and in Spain the fine is €300. Still, pro-legalization rallies, like this one in Antwerp, still attract a crowd. Belgium has made it illegal to smoke in the presence of minors or in public—as California would should Prop 19 pass—but will tolerate personal consumption in private. Belgium treats the cultivation of any more than one plant as a criminal offense.



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