Ecuador Takes Giant Steps Towards Cannabis Legalisation
A change in Ecuador's approach to regulating cannabis is a step in the right direction. Guayaquil in Ecuador. Source: Shutterstock
In December 2020, the Ecuadorian Assembly approved the medicinal use of cannabis in Ecuador, a milestone for a conservative society. There are plenty of benefits from fully legalising cannabis; it is the time to change the paradigm.
However, there are some restrictions that will certainly be implemented in service of the war on drugs. For instance, a threshold allows people to carry a small amount of drugs legally. Whilst this could be seen as a step forward to abolish the war on drugs, thresholds allow for authorities to exercise discretion as to whether or not to pursue arrest. Ecuadorian legislators must work to resolve this issue, which has been particularly damaging to non-white and poorer communities, haunting people who are vulnerable to discriminatory profiling by law enforcement.
Legalising Cannabis in Latin America
Let’s take a look at how other countries in the region are doing concerning cannabis legalisation and drug decriminalisation.
But in the first place, it is important to differentiate legalisation and decriminalisation. While the latter means that it would remain illegal, no individual would be prosecuted and punished for possessing cannabis; the first one refers to the removal of every prohibition, in this case, of cannabis.
In 2013, Uruguay was the first Latin country to legalise cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes. In 2021, Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, authorised an act that allows the medicinal and industrial use of cannabis all around the country. Peru is getting closer to fully legalising cannabis (medicinal use is already allowed), maintaining strong discussions among politicians. After Uruguay, Mexico is the second country in Latin America to fully legalise cannabis for personal use. Despite witnessing a paradigm shift in the whole region during the past decade, there is still plenty to do regarding the War on Drugs.
Ecuador is moving in the right direction towards the fully legalisation of cannabis; however, legislators have only discussed medicinal and industrial use. It is important to highlight the impact that the legalisation of these uses of cannabis can provide for the Ecuadorian population.
In the first place, the needs of current and future cannabis consumers will be satisfied, helping them overcome pain, diseases, and more. Secondly, the liberalisation of drug laws can help to develop new industries inside the country, which means more jobs for the people, reducing unemployment, subemployment, and poverty. The legalisation of cannabis can help people in a myriad of ways, so what are the politicians waiting for?
Further, it is time for the assembly members to start discussing further topics that will help to cope with the current prison crisis in the country, which is exacerbated by punitive drug laws. Step by step, we should be walking towards an objective in mind, ending the war on drugs by decriminalizing all drugs. Legalising cannabis is just a step towards this goal; it should be put together with a national plan of education and communication, especially for young people, with a global reach.
This process can be historic if it takes the right direction and if there is a political will to face some opposition by conservative groups. Together it is possible to make a change. As José “Pepe” Mujica (former Uruguayan president) once said: “the issue is drug trafficking, not marijuana”; we must go further - the issue is punitive drug policy. No one should be in jail for consuming drugs or possession. No one should be in jail at all.