Caribbean Drug Policy Dialogue 2015 San Juan (Puerto Rico)

San Juan (Puerto Rico), April 23-25, 2015

san-juanFocusing on the Caribbean region, the thirteenth Informal Drug Policy Dialogue in Latin America, was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 23-25 April 2015, at the initiative of TNI (Transnational Institute), WOLA (Washington Office of Latin America) and Intercambios, Puerto Rico. It was supported in part by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Department of State and the Centre for Advance Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

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Participants representing governmental agencies and legal bodies, NGOs, academic institutions and advocacy organisations hailed from 15 different countries of the Caribbean, Latin America, and Europe as well as from the United States. Communicating in Spanish, English, and French, participants noted that the event was a first-ever Caribbean-wide meeting on Drugs Policy. The occasion served as an opportunity for the sharing of experiences and information on legal, penal, socio-political, and cultural postures.

The two-day dialogue was structured around five thematic sessions concerning the Caribbean region and covering: (1) the panorama of the drugs market in the Caribbean; (2) harm reduction: a new concept for the Caribbean? (3) cannabis policies in the Caribbean and reform options; (4) drug-related crime and incarceration; and (5) the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Controlled Substances (UNGASS) and role of the Caribbean.

The dialogue took place just two months after the government of Jamaica made nuanced advances in their process of cannabis decriminalisation. Puerto Rico, a non-incorporated U.S. territory in the Caribbean with a Spanish speaking population of 3.5 million, has a prominent number of legislators and a significant number of state representatives who openly support decriminalisation of drug use. One week after the meeting, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla issued an executive order legalising the use of cannabis derivatives for medical purposes. As always, the meeting followed Chatham House rules to encourage confidentiality and a free exchange of ideas. This report, therefore, safeguards the anonymity of opinions and omits any information that could reveal the participant’s identity.