By Taos Turner
If Cheech & Chong were here, they’d grab a bong and celebrate.
Argentina’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously that it is unconstitutional to punish adults for consuming marijuana as long as doing so doesn’t put anyone else at risk.
As the court itself recognized, its decision “implies legalizing the drug.”
But for anyone hoping this would turn Buenos Aires into a kind of Amsterdam 2.0, that’s not going to happen. The court limited the scope of its ruling to low-level private consumption.
That means you shouldn’t expect to see Marijuana Shops popping up alongside regular coffee joints. Anyone interested in buying pot will still have to go underground to do so.
Technically, only Congress can legalize the consumption of drugs, per se, but the court’s move is significant. It strikes down part of an earlier law that arguably allowed for penalties against personal use. Congress could follow the court’s lead and pass legislation formally legalizing personal consumption.
The court also called on the government to crack down on narco-trafficking and implement programs to prevent people, especially kids, from becoming addicted to drugs.
The court based its ruling on three factors:
1) According to the constitution, “each adult is sovereign when it comes to making free decisions about the style of life he or she wants to pursue, without the state intervening…” (Article 19 of the Constitution.)
2) “You can’t penalize private conduct that doesn’t hurt third parties.”
3) Private conduct is “licit,” except when it constitutes a concrete danger or causes damage to goods or the rights of others.
In other words, keep it to yourself, and if nobody and nothing gets hurt or damaged, you’re legal.
Legal scholars and supreme court justices (individually) have long maintained that the personal consumption of drugs (even cocaine) is legal under Argentina’s constitution.
Courts have frequently ruled against attempts to penalize personal possession. Despite this, law enforcement officials in various parts of the country have at times arrested and persecuted individuals for the personal use and transportation of drugs.
Argentina is not a major drug producer or exporter. But in recent years the country has become a key gateway for the transportation and triangulation of drugs produced in elsewhere in Latin America for export to the US and Europe. Drug enforcement officials say that most days at least one flight out of Ezeiza contains a drug smuggler.