A new bill in Ecuador seeks to change the public-policy paradigm on drug use in the country. On Wednesday, April 9, legislators held a historic first debate of the Organic Law on Comprehensive Drug Prevention in the National Assembly.

The project, promoted by the ruling party PAIS Alliance, was introduced to the chamber by Carlos Velasco, head of the Commission of the Right to Health.

The bill aims for “comprehensive drug prevention, by establishing a legal and institutional framework to address drug use, and the regulation of the substances that are subject to control.”

It stipulates over 100 substances that would be “controlled,” including alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, illegal drugs, and other industrial substances such as solvents which are also used as drugs.

In perhaps the most landmark provisions, however, the 26-article document proposes the creation of a Technical Secretariat of Drugs, under the control of the president, to “regulate and control the activities related to the import, export, cultivation, production, marketing, distribution, transportation, and use,” of the aforementioned substances.

Those interested in handling or using the substances provided by the bill would have to register with the agency, although domestic cultivation or manufacture would only be allowed for purposes of “research, experimentation, or training.”

The penalties for non-compliance with the provisions of the document vary between fines or forfeiture of the substances. However, the bill as it stands would be a major change to the existing Law of Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which punishes both cultivation and sale with between 12 and 16 years in prison.

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