December 22, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) On Tuesday, the President of Colombia made good on his promise from November to legalize marijuana for medical and scientific purposes. Though the country already had measures in place concerning medical use, the new decree allows for a strong expansion of that policy. Further, though the executive order refrained from broaching the subject of full recreational legalization, it offers a new practice that many countries with legalized marijuana have not yet experimented with.
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On November 13th, Colombian Minister of Health, Alejandro Gaviria, announced the upcoming government decree. In addition to legalizing marijuana for medical and scientific use, the government promised to set specific guidelines for production, commercialization, and possession.
In 2012, the country decriminalized possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana, though using it in public and selling it remain illegal. Prior to that, Colombia legalized medical marijuana in 1986, but according to President Juan Manuel Santos, the lack of regulation stifled production at the national level.
“The manufacture, export, sale, and medical and scientific use of this and other substances have been permitted for several decades in Colombia,” President Santos said on Tuesday. “However, they were never regulated. That is what we are doing today.”
Further, the order sets stipulations for exporting medical marijuana products. While Portugal, Uruguay, the Netherlands, and some states in the U.S., for example, have moved to decriminalize or legalize marijuana to varying degrees, Colombia will be the first to establish parameters for export. The country’s National Council of Drugs will issue licenses that allow the sale of products to countries where it is legal.
President Juan Manuel Santos signed the new policy, addressing the nation to tout the forward-thinking approach. “We have just taken an important step to place Colombia at the forefront of the fight against disease, with a decree… that allows licenses to be granted for the possession of seeds, cannabis plants and marijuana, and for the plant to be grown for exclusively medical and scientific purposes,” he said.
Even so, Santos insisted that “Allowing the use of marijuana does not go against our international commitments to control drugs or against our policy of fighting drug trafficking.” Growing, selling, and distributing cannabis for any other purpose will remain illegal.
Colombia has long complied with U.S. drug policy, enforcing strict, zero-tolerance policies against narcotics. As the U.S. Embassy in Colombia boasts, “The DEA has always had an excellent working relationship with the Colombian National Police and the Security Administration Department (DAS).”
Even so, Colombia has strayed from its allegiance to the U.S. with its decision earlier this year to stop spraying illicit crops with glyphosate, a decades-long approach promoted by the United States but criticized over health concerns. Glyphosate is linked to cancer, and spraying illicit crops has reportedly endangered surrounding communities. Tuesday’s legalization of medical marijuana similarly defies U.S. federal policy.
Though the Drug War — and the violence and corruption it has caused — is far from over, Colombia joins the ranks of other nations who have moved to reduce prohibition on marijuana for the medical well-being of its citizens.
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