Colombia Restarts Marijuana Legalization Process

In Colombia, marijuana legalization has been a hot topic for some time now. With increased drug-related violence and continued cartel activity in the country, lawmakers have sought to reduce illegal drug activities by introducing legislation that would legalize the sale of cannabis for recreational use.

Under these proposals, marijuana businesses would be regulated and taxed, bringing much-needed revenue into rural communities and providing an economic boost for the country. The legalization of marijuana also holds great promise for reducing drug-related crime and helping those who are struggling with addiction access treatment.

Despite several attempts to pass legislation, lawmakers have yet to succeed in legalizing cannabis for adult use. Now, however, they are attempting another push as Colombia has restarted its marijuana legalization process and is committed to continuing the debate for another two years. With this new attempt at reform, Colombia could be on its way to becoming one of just a handful of nations in Latin America that have legalized recreational marijuana—along with Uruguay and Mexico.

Unfortunately, Failed Attempt Last Session

In the last Senate session, Colombian lawmakers attempted to pass a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use. The legislation was approved by both chambers during the two-year process it needed to go through but then stalled in the Senate when it failed to get enough votes to pass. Despite receiving most of the votes on the floor, 54 were required, and only 50 were obtained. This failure was primarily attributed to strong opposition from Colombia’s conservative and religious parties, the Conservative Party and Unity Party for the People. These parties disagreed due to moral and religious arguments against legalizing marijuana.

Senator Rep. María José Pizarro Rodríguez weighed in after the failed vote, saying, “We did everything possible to guarantee freedoms, overcome the legal chaos of decades, we wanted to take lives and resources away from illegality. We wanted for the communities, youth and women a daily life without mafias and violence.

Throughout the entire process for the regularization of Cannabis for Adult Use, we gave an argued debate and with proposals, with height, without fanaticism or lies.

We lost by very little, but we are certain that we will be more and more.”

This failed vote marks a setback but also serves as an opportunity to understand better the arguments in favor and against cannabis legalization and how it could address some of Colombia’s public health and security concerns. With the introduction of a new bill and the start of another two-year process, lawmakers have a chance to push for reform once again.

New Bill Proposed by Colombian Lawmakers

Rep. Juan Carlos Losada and Sen. María José Pizarro Rodríguez once again spearhead the new bill. The purpose of the bill on the Columbia government website says, “The purpose of this Draft Legislative Act is to allow the regularization of the use of cannabis by adults, as well as the unification of the current regulations regarding the use of cannabis for scientific use, as long as they are complied with. the established requirements.The foregoing in order to recognize and guarantee the fundamental rights to equality and the free development of personality, unify the constitutional, legal and jurisprudential references on the matter and propose a different strategy to combat illegal cannabis trafficking, as a tactic to reduce violence in the country.”

Last week, the bill was passed unanimously in its first test at the First Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. Per Rep. Juan Carlos Losada on Twitter/X, they need to pass seven more debates, and they are sure the “vote is the reflection of a Congress that is aware of the progress that drug policy needs from prohibition to regulation.”

Sen. María José Pizarro Rodríguez also shared the same sentiment on Twitter/X: “We started positively the race to achieve the regularization of cannabis for adult use.”

Failed War on Drugs

One of the primary reasons for the push for adult-use legalization in Colombia is the desire to combat illicit drug activity and reduce violence in the country. Cannabis for personal use has been legal in Colombia since 1994 and decriminalized possession of up to 20 grams in 2012. But this has done little to stop the illicit drug activity in Columbia, with even Colombia’s Justice Minister Nestor Osuna saying, “The first thing to notice from the report is the total failure of the war on drugs.”

President of Colombia Gustavo Petro has also been a strong proponent for cannabis legalization, citing that it would help to reduce violence and crime rates. He has pointed out the economic benefits of regulation in other countries and believes Colombia should not be left behind. Petro stressed the importance of having a “responsible regulation” that includes providing access to medical marijuana, protection from addiction, preventing drug-related crimes, and providing economic opportunities for people to transition out of the illicit market. He also believes it is important that “production, marketing, and consumption be regulated by law” in order to protect public health.

It is great to see that even after a failed vote and now a two-year fight ahead of them, Colombian representatives continue to fight for the right to adult-use cannabis in their country. Even though this may be an uphill battle, if it is successful, it could have a tremendous impact in Colombia, from fighting drug cartels to providing economic benefits for millions of people.

It is encouraging to know that Colombia’s representatives have not given up and are continuing to push for legislation that could benefit their country in many ways. We look forward to hopefully seeing the adult-use legislation pass this time and make a real difference in Colombia. As Rep. Pizarro Rodríguez said at the failed vote, “We want for the communities, youth and women a daily life without mafias and violence.” Let’s hope that this is something Colombia can achieve soon.

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