Legislators in Colombia are looking to pass a bill that would legalize marijuana in the country this year. A Chamber of Representatives committee advanced the marijuana legalization bill in a 26-6 vote earlier this week.
The measure was reconciled from Senate and Chamber of Representatives versions in late 2022. Both Senate and Chamber of representatives versions of the bill sought to amend Colombia’s constitution to eliminate prohibitionist cannabis policies.
Lawmakers included language from the Chamber’s version of the measure that outlawed the possession and use of cannabis without a legal, medical prescription. The Chamber provisions limited marijuana marketing in public spaces and near school zones and placed a cap on marijuana consumption.
The language in the Chamber version stated that the bill would take 12 months to kick in after it was implemented. The Senate version of the bill was approved in a 56-3 vote in December 2022 after legislators convened for several weeks to discuss the legalization measure.
It included provisions that covered the autonomy of indigenous communities and acknowledged the communities’ right to regulate cannabis themselves.
Now that the bill has advanced past the First Committee of the Chamber, which represented its fifth stop in Congress, it will head to the floor for consideration before going to the Senate for a final vote. It has to go through a total of 8 stops in Congress over two years before heading to the president’s desk for final approval.
Justice Minister Nister Osuna said at the time that the country was the victim of an ‘absurd prohibitionist’ drug war that had ultimately failed while contributing to increased armed conflict, crime, and organized criminal activity.
In an op-ed, bill sponsor Rep Juan Carlos Losada said that the bill was one of the most controversial yet important issues in recent times.
Launching a regulated adult cannabis market would allow the country to abandon failed prohibitionist policies and provide an opportunity to create drug policies based on public health guidelines, efforts to prevent cannabis consumption, and increased attention to users.
He also noted that getting rid of prohibitionist policies would help the country reclaim the funds that have streamed into the illicit drug market and fueled violence and war in Colombia. Furthermore, Rep Juan Carlos Losada said that a regulated market would do something that prohibition could not; save lives.
Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro has advocated for the end of international drug criminalization and recently urged UN member nations to adapt their drug policies and eliminate prohibitionist policies. These calls for drug policy reform at the international level are likely to grow louder over the coming years, as advocates keep an eye on how things shape up.
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