BUENOS AIRES -- After getting caught with contraband like ecstasy tablets and marijuana, a few young Argentines have been asked by judges recently to pay an unexpected price for breaking the nation's drug laws: None at all.
That's because separate federal tribunals here have ruled that a law penalizing the personal use of drugs is unconstitutional. Two offenders have been let off the hook in Buenos Aires. And this week another group of judges echoed the ruling after considering the case of a young man arrested with marijuana.
"Criminalization will only apply in cases where the possession of narcotics for personal consumption represents a danger for the public health of others," the judges announced.
The rulings come as Argentina's government is trying to come up with a new way to handle a growing domestic drug-abuse problem. In the past few years, the local press has been chronicling the rise of paco, a smokable form of cocaine. It's cheap, highly addictive and readily accessible, and it has flourished in this city's villa miserias, the shambolic slums that have proliferated after the country's economic collapse in 2001.
Prohibition does not work, has never worked, and cannot ever work, because all it does is artificially increase demand while reducing supply.