The Commission expresses its special concern over the adoption of state policies that seek to punish drug-related conduct – specifically such conduct as related to minor offenses, such as consumption and possession of drugs for personal use – and that this has likely resulted in an increase in the number of persons deprived of liberty for drug-related criminal acts, mainly women. In this context, offenses related to drug use are characterized as “grave offenses” (“delitos graves”) and, therefore, pretrial detention is applied automatically, without the accused being able to benefit from alternatives to incarceration. In this respect, the IACHR reiterates that pretrial detention should be justified in the specific case, and that legislation that considers applying precautionary measures based on the type of offense – in this case, any drug-related criminal act – ignores the principle of proportionality enshrined in the American Convention. The Commission recalls that the principle of proportionality implies “a rational relationship between the precautionary measure and the purpose sought, so that the sacrifice inherent in the restriction of the right to liberty is not exaggerated or excessive compared to the advantages obtained from this restriction and the achievement of the purpose sought.

Drug related measures

  1. Establish a drug policy with an approach that is comprehensive and focused on social reinsertion, that ensures that treatment for persons who have been arrested for drug use or possession or who have committed minor offenses because of their problematic or dependent use not be repressive and criminalizing, but rather from a public health approach.
  2. In relation to minor crimes committed by problematic or dependent use, or for drug consumption or possession for personal use, States should promote non-custodial measures that prioritizes public health, human rights and are based on scientific evidence.  
  3. The IACHR urges the States to establish a drug policy with an approach that is comprehensive and focused on social reinsertion, that ensures that treatment for persons who have been arrested for drug use or possession or who have committed minor offenses because of their problematic or dependent use not be repressive and criminalizing, but rather from a public health approach.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert