In a move that will be remembered through history and a day that could be looked back upon as the beginning of a new era for Colombia and potentially the rest of South America, Colombia could become the second country on the continent to legalize cannabis after the adult-use bill passed in the country’s Senate. Not only does this act symbolize social equity and freedom for Colombian citizens, but it opens up doors for increased trade opportunities and potentially cuts off the prolific black market.
The Current State Of Cannabis In Colombia
Cannabis has a long history in Colombia. Since the days of the Spanish conquistadors, the plant has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes.
In 2016, Colombia decriminalized possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis and allowed for personal cultivation of up to 20 plants. The country has a medical program that allows patients to possess, cultivate, and use cannabis for medical purposes.
However, despite the progress made by Colombia’s government toward legalization, many are still wary of using marijuana because they fear prosecution from police officers, while plenty of others continue to illegally produce and sell cannabis.
The Key To Winning The War On Drugs?
The country’s infamous history of narcotics and drug trafficking is no secret. It’s estimated that Colombia produced more than 1 million kilos of cocaine in 2021 alone. The war on drugs has been (unsurprisingly) a massive failure, and despite millions in foreign aid, the Colombian black market is bigger than it was during the Escobar era. Colombian President Gustavo Petro has made it his goal to combat the violence and crime associated with the drug trade, and one of the ways he intends to do so is by legalizing and regulating cannabis.
Colombia currently produces massive quantities of medical cannabis for foreign markets, but unfortunately, a large number of rural farmers – around 3,000 – are still participating in the black market. According to COCCAM, a confederation of illicit farmers working to lobby for their own interests in government, thousands of Colombian families depend on the black market as their sole source of income.
This new bill intends to lower their entry barriers, integrating producers, dealers, and consumers into the legal market. Petro’s government hopes this will take some steam away from the narcos running the country and make it more difficult for them to operate outside legal channels.
The Road To Legalization
Colombia has some specific processes when it comes to approving new legislation. Here’s a brief overview of how the cannabis bill moves through their government:
First, the bill must be published in the Congressional Gazette so that all government members may read it. Then, it has to be adopted in identical terms at its first reading by the relevant Commissions of each House. This means that there are several stages of approval by committees and then by full Houses, so there is plenty of opportunity for debate.
The bill is then presented to one of the Houses for its second reading after a minimum of eight days and, if approved, sent to the President for his final signature.
The cannabis bill has already passed the first Senate reading, so although there are a few more steps that need to be taken, we’re hopeful that it will move through the second reading quickly, ending up on President Petro’s desk sooner rather than later.
If Colombia’s new President-elect is a man of his word, then the country could help topple the multi-billion dollar black market for cannabis and cocaine in South America. Non-violent drug offenders will no longer be jailed, and traffickers will have to look elsewhere for their supply. Further, the massive influx of cash into the country could reduce the threat of drug cartels. It seems like an impossible dream, but there’s already a first step in place. Colombia needs to capitalize on this momentum with a cohesive public policy around cannabis legalization. There is so much potential for positive change here, and we can’t wait to see how it plays out.
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