Colombian Senators approve cannabis legalization bill
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Colombian Senators approve cannabis legalization bill

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday to legalize marijuana in Colombia. The primary focus for ending the war on marijuana is to stop organized crime and illicit activities, as well as address overcrowded prisons. Sen. Maria Jose Pizarro wrote in an op/ed last week that the current cannabis prohibition has “enriched criminal organizations who continue to expand and sow terrorism around the world.” “In parallel, a substantial percentage of the increase of people deprived of freedom worldwide corresponds with people arrested or prosecuted in relation to possession and consumption, leading to overcrowding, and a prison crises,” she added. The constitutional amendment passed through the Chamber of Representatives in November before passing the Senate First Committee by a This is the seventh of the eight votes needed before the bill can reach Columbia’s progressive president Gustavo Petro. The legislation now moves to the Senate floor for voting on June 16, after its latest success. Petro has not given a direct statement on his opinion of the legislation. However, supporters of the bill remain hopeful. Petro has been in favor of legalizing the legislation since August when he was inaugurated. He has also spoken out against the horrors that can be caused by prohibition, especially the power it gives to dangerous illicit markets. He addressed the UN last year to urge other nations to change their approach to drug policy. The president has often discussed the need to free people who are in prison on cannabis charges. Petro also discussed the benefits of a legal cannabis industry for Columbia’s economy. He said that smaller towns like Andes could potentially benefit from a legal cannabis market without licensing requirements. Petro is also willing to create an exportation company so Columbia can sell its cannabis to other legal nations. The bill is a constitutional amendment and must go through the entire legislative process twice in each chamber, in different calendars years, before it can be passed. The amendment, if it passes, will support “the right to the free development and personality of citizens, allowing them to decide on cannabis consumption within a regulated legal context,” it states. It also aims at reducing “arbitrary discrimination or unequal treatment” in front of those who consume cannabis. It would include treatment centres for those with substance abuse disorders and provide public educational campaigns. Petro also brought up the positive point that cannabis could be used to reduce harm by reducing the demand for cocaine. The president, who was a member of Colombia’s M-19 group, has experienced violent conflict first-hand between guerrillas, narco-paramilitary groups and drug cartels. Columbia’s aggressive drug enforcement policies are only making the problem worse. According to the United Nations Office of Drug Control Policy, Colombia is still a major cocaine producer. Nestor Osuna, the Justice Minister, stated at a hearing before a Senate panel in 2022 that Colombia was the victim of a “failed war that was designed fifty years ago, and, due to absurd prohibitionism, has brought us blood, armed conflicts, mafias, and crime.” In 2020, Columbian legislators introduced legislation to regulate cocaine production and coca, while admitting the country’s previous attempts to address the issue failed. The bill was killed by a conservative-led legislature. The president is aware that these problems are not exclusive to Columbia. Last year, Petro met the president of Mexico (which is also considering cannabis legalization) and announced that they were working to bring Latin American leaders together at an international conference focusing on “redesigning” and “rethinking” drug policy in light of the “failure’ of prohibition.


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