Bill to legalize cannabis in Colombia passed in the Senate on tuesday. The main focus of ending the war on cannabis is directly tied to stopping organized crime and illegal activity and addressing overcrowded prisons. Senator María José Pizarro, the bill’s proponent, said in an op-ed last month that the current marijuana ban “is bloating the growing criminal gangs that continue to sow the seeds of terrorism around the world.” wrote.
“At the same time, a significant proportion of the growing disenfranchised population worldwide corresponds to those arrested or prosecuted for possession or consumption, which leads to overcrowding and prison crises,” she said. added.
The constitutional amendment passed the House last month and was approved by the Senate First Committee by a vote of 15-4. This represents the seventh of eight votes needed for the bill to reach the desk of Colombian progressive President Gustavo Petro. Following recent passage, the bill will be sent to the Senate floor for a vote on June 16.
Petro has not directly addressed his views on the bill, but since he took office in August he has historically backed the bill’s legalization over fears stemming from the ban, so the bill’s proponents They are hopeful. Especially the power to give to the dangerous illicit market.
Last year, he urged the United Nations to change its approach to drug policy. The president often discusses the need to release people in prison on marijuana charges. Petro also discussed how a legal cannabis market could foster the Colombian economy. He said small towns like those in the Andes could enjoy a legal cannabis industry without licensing requirements. Petro is also willing to create an export business so that Colombia can sell to other legal nations.
Because the bill is a constitutional amendment, under Colombian law, it will have to go through the entire legislative process in each chamber twice in different calendar years before it is finally passed and put into effect. If passed, the amendment would “uphold the right to free development of the personality and allow the public to make decisions about their cannabis consumption within a regulated legal framework.” It also aims to reduce “arbitrary discriminatory or unequal treatment before the consuming public.” This will include treatment centers for people with substance use disorders and will also offer public education campaigns.
Another encouraging point raised by Mr. Petro is the role cannabis can play in harm reduction by moderating the demand for cocaine. A former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, the president has experienced first-hand and survived violent conflicts between guerrilla fighters, drug militias and drug cartels. So far, Columbia’s militant drug policy has only exacerbated the problem. Colombia remains a major cocaine exporter, according to the United Nations Office for Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). As Justice Minister Nestor Osuna proclaimed at a Senate committee hearing in 2022, Colombia was “a failure planned 50 years ago that has resulted in much bloodshed and armed conflict due to absurd teetotalism. victims of war. , mafia and crime. Back in 2020, Colombian lawmakers introduced a bill to regulate coca and, by extension, cocaine production, but acknowledged that the country’s historic attempt to address the problem had failed. However, the bill was withdrawn thanks to the Conservative Congress.
These problems are not unique to Colombia, and the president knows it. Last year, Petro met with the president of Mexico (which is also considering legalizing cannabis) and led Latin America at an international conference focused on “redesigning and rethinking drug policy” in light of the “failures” of prohibition. announced an initiative to bring leaders together.