Ecuador’s National Assembly is considering legislation that would decriminalize most forms of drug possession, production or cultivation. Although the law would not legalize drugs, it would require offenders to pay a fine or forfeit their drugs instead of serving prison time.
The legislation proposes control and regulation of more than 100 substances including drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and solvents used to produce certain drugs. The regulation would be carried out by a new drug office that, according to the draft, would “provide regulation of all activities connected to the export, import, cultivation, production, marketing, distribution and use” of the controlled substances.
The drug office would also maintain a registry of those legally handling the substances for specified purposes, including experimentation and research. Those caught with the controlled substances who were not registered, would be required to turn them over or pay a fine. Under current law, violators can be sentenced to as much as 16 years in prison.
Velasco and other Pais party members say that the current laws, passed 30 years ago, were part of a failed drug policy pushed by the United States. “The U.S. War and Drugs was a total failure,” Velasco said. “It’s time we pass a non-repressive law that looks first at health and rehabilitation issues.”
Opponents of the legislation say it either goes too far or not far enough. Independent Assemblyman Ramiro Aguilar says the legislation is poorly drafted and will be subject to “unintended consequences.” Aguilar says he supports total decriminalization of marijuana.
Another opponent, María Cristina Kronfle, says the proposed law goes too far and will create an environment that promotes the use and distribution of drugs.
Valesco and other Pais members say the objections are unfounded and maintain that the bill accepts the fact that it is impossible to eliminate drugs.
More debate on the proposed legislation is scheduled for next week.