Marijuana Possession Decriminalized in Argentina

Yesterday Argentina's Supreme Court unanimously ruled that punishing adults for private marijuana use that does not harm others is unconstitutional. It therefore rejected the arrests of five men caught with a few joints in their pockets. The Cato Institute's Juan Carlos Hidalgo says the ruling hinged on the Argentine constitution's privacy clause (PDF):

The private actions of men which in no way offend public order or morality, nor injure a third party, are only reserved to God and are exempted from the authority of judges. No inhabitant of the Nation shall be obliged to perform what the law does not demand nor deprived of what it does not prohibit.

It's a matter of opinion, of course, which actions "offend public order or morality," but it's implausible to argue that private (and therefore unobserved), consensual activity of any sort does so. Likewise, one would be hard pressed to show how an adult smoking pot in the privacy of his home thereby harms third parties. According to CNN, "Supreme Court Justice Carlos Fayt, who at one time supported laws that make personal use of marijuana illegal, told the state-run Telam news agency that 'reality' changed his mind." Similar reasoning underlies the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision that legalized private possession of marijuana in small amounts, based on the state constitution's privacy clause (although that ruling left the door open to new evidence concerning the harm that pot smokers cause to themselves).

The Argentine Supreme Court's decision came less than a week after Mexico eliminated criminal penalties for possessing small quantities of marijuana and various other drugs. Hidalgo says Brazil and Ecuador may take similar steps.

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  • Xeones||

    The private actions of men which in no way offend public order or morality, nor injure a third party, are only reserved to God and are exempted from the authority of judges.

    I'm thinking our Bill of Rights could have used a similar amendment.

  • ||

    Offending public order or morality is the root of many of our bullshit laws. So it wouldn't help as much as you think.

  • ||

    Yeah, I'm going to say that the Argentine court might let stand, for instance, a law against enjoying child porn cartoons ("no child was molested or exploited in the making of this film"), even if done only in the privacy of one's own, well-hidden safe room.

    On the other hand, I think Xeones has a point. Reading the excerpt from the Argentine Constitution, I also found myself wondering why our own Constitution was not more forthcoming in describing its own presumptions of liberty and privacy.

  • ||

    So are the dominoes FINALLY beginning to fall, or is something else going on here?

  • Steve||

    Still, drug use, even private harms society. Drug users are less productive and are out sick more often, and have more accidents. They also increase health care costs for us all. That is why it is logical that it is illegal.

  • ||

    Come on, these things happened in practically 3rd world countries, so their actions should always be seen as a step back. You don't get progress from such countries. Progress comes exclusively from countries only as awesome as the US, which is pretty much only the US. Sucks to be everybody else, I guess.

  • Sandra||

    Excuse me, Danny. I'm from Argentina, I lived in Buenos Aires, and I can tell you right now, Buenos Aires is the tenth largest city in the world. It is the storehold for various cultural, social, political, and artistic treasures. I can assure you that it is making progress, and while we are progressing and moving forward in life, the United States' economic and political life is slowly but surely deteriorating. ok?

  • Paula||

    US is going down!!!

  • IceTrey||

    "offend public order or morality,"

    That's a simple one. Any action involving the initiatory use of force, threats of force or fraud.

    TrickyVic,

    Public morality is objective morality. Most of the bullshit laws such as the one referenced in the article deal with subjective morality.

  • ||

    Good idea, Steve. Let's destroy and dismantle all pharmaceutical and alcohol companies since they are drugs, too. Pharmaceuticals are expensive, and most of them are just placebos anyway!

  • IceTrey||

    Steve'

    People who eat too much sugar get fat and the same results occur as you stated. Should sugar be illegal? What about alcohol? Tobacco? Etc....

  • ||

    Yes yes and yes, IceTrey. Gosh, this is easy. Cars should be banned, too. They are WAY too risky.

  • Steve||

    People who eat too much sugar get fat and the same results occur as you stated. Should sugar be illegal? What about alcohol? Tobacco? Etc....

    No, that is a slippery slope, and those things, except tobacco can be used safely in moderation. Usage can be controlled by taxes.

    Tobacco will eventually be illegal.

  • polio robot||

    Great news. It's nice to know that a country famous for 'disappearances', military juntas and nazi relocation is a little more free than us.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Say Yes to Drugs ... and no to all those lies u c on TV...

    ...KEEP DOPE ALIVE...

    Vivas Las Drogas

  • ||

    "...those things, except tobacco can be used safely in moderation."

    Really? What does "safely" mean anyway? There are people who smoke all their lives and live longer lives than others that don't smoke.

    And slippery slope? Are you kidding? People are actually seriously regulating fatty foods. They are already taxing them as another "sin" that you could live without, so you should be taxed more for it. The next logical step is to outlaw them altogether. You really can't see that?

  • ||

    Come on, Reason. Anyone but a fool can see that Steve is nothing but a thread boosting creation of the staff.

  • ||

    Also, people by the name of "Steve" are infinitely more likely to require health care than people named "SDF:Lnas;ldgnweg", so we should outlaw the name "Steve".

    Don't ask me how to pronounce that.

  • ||

    There are people stupid enough to believe those things, James, as sad as it is.

  • wingnutx||

    Sure, drug use has some negative effects on society, but not nearly to the extent that prohibition does.

  • ||

    Thanks for ruining a great day, Danny.

  • ||

    """Public morality is objective morality. Most of the bullshit laws such as the one referenced in the article deal with subjective morality.""

    I don't think government is going to ask you when it's starts passing laws that offend morality, it's going to define them as it see fit.

  • ||

    Make that passing laws to prevent the offense of morality.

  • ||

    IceTrey, think of it this way. Our government and the highest court in our land can't properly define infringement as it sits in the second amendment. If they can't use a dictionary to find the definition of one word, they will be way lost with concepts like public order and morality.

  • Gene Berkman||

    Back in the 1970s Spain legalized possession of Cannabis. Reason Magazine ran a news item on it. Next to the news item about Spain legalizing hashish, Audio-Forum had an ad for Spanish language learning courses. Good ad placement, I thought!

  • Chrystal K.||

    Time to move to Argentina.

  • IceTrey||

    TrickyVic,

    You said, "Offending public order or morality is the root of many of our bullshit laws.". This is incorrect. Offending PRIVATE order or SUBJECTIVE morality is the root of many bullshit laws. These laws outlaw private activities which is why the court overthrew the case.

  • ||

    This is our opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. Join us in California by donating or volunteering for the California Cannabis Initiative who is working hard at bringing us the Tax, Regulate, and Control Cannabis Act of 2010 to the ballot box. Lets end this needless war that has drained our local, state and federal treasuries and has destroyed more families and lives than any drug itself could have ever done.

    To join or help the fight go to www.californiacannabisinitiative.org

    Oscar Chavez
    California Cannabis Initiative
    San Bernardino County Coordinator

  • Elemenope||

    So are the dominoes FINALLY beginning to fall, or is something else going on here?

    What's absolutely fascinating from my point of view is the Obama Administration's reaction to this. Namely, it's basic lack of reaction. When Mexico first tried to do this back in 2006 I believe, the Bush Administration raised all holy hell and Fox backed off. This time, not a peep except some non-committal "we'll wait and see how it goes" type statements.

    Huh.

  • TallDave||

    Wow, sanity is spreading.

  • Robert||

    I think I.2 of their constitution gives a clue as to what would offend morality, by supporting the Catholic Apostolic Church. It would seem that with an established church, its ministry would be the official experts on morality. Note that it doesn't say that which offends morality must be legislated against, only that it may be. So if either the Catholic church or the legislature says it's OK, it is. Presumably the Catholic Apostolic Church had determined that marijuana possession was not immoral, or at least had not determined and publicized that it was immoral.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Steve must be Juanita's husband.

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    "Steve must be Juanita's husband."

    J sub D will be heart broken.

  • Concerned Mom||

    Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children?

  • ||

    Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children?

    I think they did for a change.

  • John Thomas||

    One of the main reasons we ended the failed experiment of alcohol prohibition was it was causing an epidemic of childhood alcoholism. The same happens with marijuana - except it is not addictive. Only black-market dealers will sell to children. Licensed vendors will not so they can keep their license.

    Also, in the Netherlands, where they have legal possession and sale of marijuana, they have HALF the use of the U.S. -- Forbidden fruit is a strong attraction.

    The evidence is in. Marijuana prohibition causes MORE use.

  • ||

    Steve says:

    "Still, drug use, even private harms society. Drug users are less productive and are out sick more often, and have more accidents. They also increase health care costs for us all. That is why it is logical that it is illegal."

    I can partially agree with that when it comes to particularly addictive drugs like meth or heroin where a small contingent of addicts cause big problems in our communities. I personally do not have a problem with banning these drugs because they are so addictive that when people mess around with them they are subjecting the rest of us to a lot of risk because they are liable to become addicted and become a major problem for us.

    But marijuana? Come on. Pot smokers do not cause us a lot of problems. Most all of them work and you rarely see pot leading to any crime other than that which is related to its legal status. As for it reducing productivity, I don't think it does that very much. If there are people who smoke too much weed and aren't productive, oh well. We need dishwashers and ditch diggers. I've smoked pot for more than thirty year and I could work circles around you. I probably make several times more than you make in a year. My employees make more than most people. I'm at the office now on a Saturday and in a half a day I did more work than most will do in a whole day. So if I want to smoke a little pot later this evening, I'm going to do it, and if anyone doesn't like that they can kiss my ass.

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