Colombia may be the next South American country to allow adults to legally use cannabis thanks to an endorsement from a big name in the country — the president, to be exact. Whereas former President Alvaro Uribe maintained a strict, prohibitionist stance on cannabis legislation, the current head of state has more progressive views on the plant.
At a drug policy forum recently held in the capitol, Bogota, President Juan Manual Santos openly proclaimed his support for legislation that would give patients access to cannabis for medical and therapeutic purposes.
President Santos said the bill was not only “a practical, compassionate measure to reduce the pain (and) anxiety of patients with terminal illnesses, but also a way of beginning to strip from the hands of criminals the role of intermediary between the patient and the substance that allows them to relieve their suffering.”
His public endorsement might have been inspired by the recent positive trends that have resulted from legalization in other parts of the world, particularly in the U.S. in states like Colorado and Washington, or countries like Uruguay where instances of violent crime have dropped following the change in legislation. Although Colombia wouldn’t be legalizing recreational cannabis just yet, the president recognizes that regulation would be more effective than prosecution.
Drug trafficking and cartels have made marijuana available to residents on the black market, but this potential shift in policy may direct the cannabis conversation away from illegal activity and begin to encourage more dialogue surrounding personal well-being and general health.
“I believe that the Colombian people are wanting, and are welcoming, a debate on the initiative to utilize marijuana for medicinal and therapeutic purposes,” Santos said while speaking at a forum.
Senator Juan Manuel Galan introduced the bill that would give the Colombian government control over the distribution of marijuana. If legislators approve it, the bill could pass as soon as next summer. Currently, Colombia has decriminalized cannabis and allows adults to possess up to 20 grams of marijuana for personal use without facing criminal charges.
Details of specific language and particular regulations of the bill are still developing. It must go through Congress before reaching voters.
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