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Colombia to legalize commercial sale of medical marijuana

Colombia's government plans to legalize the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes

By: AP | Bogota | Published: November 13, 2015 9:45 am
colombia, colombia marijuana, marijuana, marijuana legalization, medical marijuana, colombia medical marijuana FILE – In this May 4, 2013 file photo, a youth smokes marijuana cigarettes using a papaya during a rally in support of legalizing marijuana in Medellin, Colombia (AP photo)

Colombia’s government plans to legalize the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes, officials said Thursday in a surprise shift by the longtime U.S. ally in the war on drugs.

The change is coming in an executive decree that President Juan Manuel Santos will soon sign into law. It will regulate regulating everything from licensing for growers to the eventual export of products made from marijuana, Justice Minister Yesid Reyes said.

With the new policy, Colombia joins countries from Mexico to Chile that have experimented with legalization or decriminalization as part of a wave of changing attitudes toward drug use and policies to combat it in Latin America. But unlike many of its neighbors, Colombia has long been identified with U.S.-backed policies to eradicate drug production and a sharp decline in levels of violence over the past 15 years is largely attributed to the no-tolerance policing.

Sen. Juan Manuel Galan, who last year introduced legislation that tracks with the government’s decree, said that as many as 400,000 Colombians suffering from epilepsy and other ailments could benefit from the clearer regulatory framework to be provided by the decree.

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Colombians for two decades have been allowed to possess small quantities of any narcotic for personal use thanks to a series of Constitutional Court rulings guaranteeing the “free development of one’s personality.”

But the congress and the executive branch have been loath to endorse such views, in part because of officials’ skittishness about showing any weakness in a country that is the biggest supplier of cocaine to the U.S.

Indeed, conservative critics in Colombia and abroad see Santos’ drive to reform drug policy, including a decision earlier this year to end a two-decade-old campaign of spraying illegal coca crops with herbicides, as a sign that the government’s resolve is weakening.

Reflecting those concerns, officials went to great lengths Thursday to explain that they are not looking to further liberalize recreational use of marijuana as was recently done in Uruguay, the region’s pioneer in drug policy reform.

“Nobody is talking about legalizing anything except for these two purposes,” Reyes said.

Colombia gained international fame since the 1970s as a producer of potent pot strains such as Santa Marta Gold. Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria told Blu Radio that he envisions Colombia positioned as a major global player in the booming market for marijuana products.

“Our phones are ringing off the hook as we get ready for the next chapter,” said a statement from John Campo, president of the parent of the U.S.-owned Sannabis company, which is developing cannabis-based oils, creams and other products on a self-governed indigenous reservation in southern Colombia.

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  1. R
    Rajesh
    Nov 13, 2015 at 12:39 pm
    Colombia should do a Uruguay and legalize it completely. Marijuana is scientifically proven to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. Then why not legalize it instead of simply jailing people.
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    1. M
      Malcolm Kyle
      Nov 13, 2015 at 3:07 pm
      What is India waiting for? "Prohibition was introduced as a fraud; it has been nursed as a fraud. It is wrapped in the livery of Heaven, but it comes to serve the devil. It comes to regulate by law our appees and our daily lives. It comes to tear down liberty and build up fanaticism, hypocrisy, and intolerance. It comes to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens. It comes to send spies, detectives, and informers into our homes; to have us arrested and carried before courts and condemned to fines and imprisonments. It comes to dissipate the sunlight of happiness, peace, and prosperity in which we are now living and to fill our land with alienations, estrangements, and bitterness. It comes to bring us evil – only evil – and that continually. Let us rise in our might as one and overwhelm it with such indignation that we shall never hear of it again as long as gr grows and water runs."
— Roger Q. Mills of Texas, 1887, quoted repeatedly during a December 1914 debate in Congress over alcohol Prohibition
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      Adda