With its proposed changes to Ley 20.000 (Law 20,000), Chile joins a growing list of Latin American countries decriminalizing marijuana. The initiative, which would grant Chileans the right to possess up to 10 grams of cannabis and grow up to six marijuana plants at a time, was passed in Chile’s Chamber of Deputies on July 7 with 68 voting in favor and 39 against. The bill must first be adjusted by a health commission and then passed by the Senate before it officially becomes law, but strong support for cannabis legalization in the country illustrates that legalizing marijuana use appears to be the new norm in the Western Hemisphere and, once again, that the War on Drugs has been a failed campaign.
Support for Legalization
The future of legalization is most apparent in the opinion of Latin American young adults on the War on Drugs. In a 2012 poll of 18 to 34-year-olds in the region by Asuntos del Sur (Southern Affairs), 79 percent of Chileans “voiced strong approval” for legalization, 52 percent disapproved of government campaigns attempting to reduce drug use, and 54 percent did not support current government policies on drugs.
In Chilean society at large, those in favor of legalizing the use and cultivation of pot are also in the majority. Fifty percent of Chileans are in favor while 45 percent are against, according to a 2014 poll carried out by Cadem, a Chilean market and public opinion investigation company. When polls address the legalization of medical marijuana, this figure skyrockets to 86 percent in favor. These numbers are especially significant when one considers that Chile is one of the more socially conservative countries in South America and indicate that support for legalization is becoming a mainstream opinion, rather than a progressive pipe dream.