No Joint Custody

Argentine drug laws


The Argentine Constitution declares that "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." This broad privacy clause, the Argentine Supreme Court unanimously ruled in August, means the state may not prosecute people merely for possessing marijuana.

Rejecting the 2006 arrests of five young men caught with a few joints in the city of Rosario, the court declared: "Each individual adult is responsible for making decisions freely about their desired lifestyle without state interference. Private conduct is allowed unless it constitutes a real danger or causes damage to property or the rights of others." Busting pot smokers therefore "invades the sphere of personal liberty that is excluded from the authority of state organs."

The decision came less than a week after a new Mexican law decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs. Brazil and Ecuador are considering similar policies. Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Institute's Global Drug Policy Program, told The New York Times the Obama administration "has left more space for people in Latin America to do what has been under discussion there for some time now."

The Argentine government, which already supported a more tolerant approach to drug users, is expected to follow through on the Supreme Court's ruling with legislation that removes criminal penalties for private possession of marijuana. "The punishment of drug users," the government's chief of staff told reporters, "was the result of the repressive policies adopted by Richard Nixon in the United States."