BOGOTA – Colombia’s Supreme Court ruled that possession of illegal drugs for personal use is not a criminal offense, citing a 1994 decision by the country’s Constitutional Court, Caracol Radio said Wednesday.
Drug consumption “generates in a person problems of addiction and slavery that turn one into a sick, compulsive individual deserving of therapeutic medical treatment instead of a punishment,” the judges said.
Their ruling came in a case involving a man prosecuted for possession of 1.3 grams (.04 ounces) of cocaine. The court overturned his conviction and ordered him immediately released.
“In the exercise of his personal and private rights, the accused did not harm others,” so his conduct “cannot be the object of any punishment,” the Supreme Court found.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court said in 1994 that possession of illegal drugs within fixed limits was not subject to prosecution, but the hard-line government of President Alvaro Uribe is currently trying to undue that decision with a constitutional amendment.
The administration’s proposal was approved in June by the lower house of Congress and is now under review by a Senate committee.
Bogota receives around $500 million a year in mainly military aid from the United States as part of Plan Colombia, an initiative targeting the drug trade and armed irregulars.
The Argentine Supreme Court moved toward decriminalizing drug possession in a ruling last month that was hailed by President Cristina Fernandez’s government, which says the battle against the illegal drug trade should focus on high-level traffickers, not users.
In the Argentine case, the judges quashed a conviction for marijuana possession, though they did not proclaim the legalization of pot or any other drug. EFE