As backwards and archaic as America’s cannabis prohibition may be, there’s one thing that will always be true: it could be worse. Indonesia is infamous for their harsh penalties for drugs – including marijuana – and vacationing Australians have a habit of falling prey to their strict system.
On Tuesday one Australian began his harrowing journey through the courts, for possession of about 3.5 grams (or an eighth of an ounce) of marijuana. He faces up to two years in jail, only because he is a 14 year old juvenile. If he were tried as an adult the punishment would carry a minimum of 4, and maximum of up to 12 years under Indonesian law.
Fortunately for justice and the child in question, defense lawyers and analysts are optimistic he’ll be given nothing more than a figurative slap on the wrist. In his first appearance he was very apologetic and seemed to take responsibility for his actions. The trial is not predicted to go on beyond a week or so.
Indonesia has not been so kind in the past. The Bali Nine is a famous case of nine Australians convicted of transporting heroin into the country. Of the nine, two will be executed by firing squad, six will serve their life in prison, and one will serve 20 years.
They have all exhausted their appeals attempts, and have no opportunity apart from a direct commutation by the Indonesian President. Australia has never successfully petitioned for a lighter sentence in Indonesian courts or political arenas. In fact, most of the Bali Nine sentenced to life were actually appealed up to a death penalty by the prosecution from the original life sentence. They were only able to reduce back to the life sentence after a second, final appeal on behalf of the defense.
Southeast Asia shares a general similarity in exceedingly harsh and backwards drug prohibition. Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia all have a death penalty possible for drug-related crimes, with the first three imposing mandatory death sentences for certain types.
Highlights of the disgusting treatment of criminals involving drug-offenses include 85 people executed in 2007 in Vietnam and 400 hanged in Singapore in the 13 years spanning 1991 and 2004. Some of these victims included foreign nationals, many of which were very low-value, first time offenders.
It is also important to remember that, since the US has been the core instigator and driver of the global war on drugs, many our so often cruel and careless politicians share in the blame for these injustices. The US may not be executing drug offenders, but the same prohibition hysteria has created these draconian laws in many foreign states.
Of course, one might note that with a death penalty enforced, there really won’t be too many multiple offenders. They might also note that these insane measures are not actually having the intended result, as is repeated so often with prohibition. Perhaps one day Asia will come to their senses regarding drug policy, but until that point some vacationers, like medical marijuana patients, might be wise to avoid the region altogether.
Disclaimer: These opinions and statements made in these posts are solely the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinion of 420 Petition and its parent company.