by Arron Daugherty

Ecuador is to toughen up penalties for drug possession after President Rafael Correa launched a broadside against "impunity" for microtraffickers "poisoning the population," rowing back on previous moves to liberalize the country's drug policy and further confusing an already muddled system. 

Ecuador's National Council for Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances (Consep) has announced a new scale to use to differentiate between drug users, microtraffickers and large scale traffickers when handing down prison sentences, reported El Universo.

The four level system saw changes for possession of all commonly used drugs, but the most significant were for heroin and cocaine; whereas previously possession of anything up to one gram of heroin and 50 grams of cocaine was considered "minimum," and essentially decriminalized, now such quantities are rated as "high" -- just one step below "large scale," and maximum prison sentences.

The changes come in the wake of speeches by President Correa denouncing the scourge of microtrafficking. Correa lamented that the light sentences for possession of small amounts under the previous scale amounted to virtual impunity for microtraffickers, especially as preventative detention does not apply to crimes with less than one year sentences, and so small-scale drug dealers were able to skip their trial hearings and continue to ply their trade.

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