ColombiaOne.comColombia newsBill to Legalize Cannabis Consumption Fails in Colombia

Bill to Legalize Cannabis Consumption Fails in Colombia


Bill to legalize cannabis
Bill to legalize cannabis consumption fails in Colombia – Credit: Miguel Olaya / CC BY 2.0

The bill to legalize cannabis consumption in Colombia has failed for the second time in a few months. In a close vote in the Colombian Senate, the bill was defeated by 46 votes to 40. This was the second attempt in five months to amend Article 49 of the Constitution to regulate the production, sale and marketing of cannabis for adult use.

However, the representative of the Liberal Party, Juan Carlos Losada, affirmed at the end of the day that he will present the bill again.

The opposition wins, for now

The vote, this time, was very close and represents a provisional victory for the opposition. The senators of the conservative parties voted against the bill: Centro Democrático, Partido Conservador, MIRA and part of the representatives of Cambio Radical and Alianza Verde. In favor were senators of the ruling Historic Pact, Liberal Party, indigenous authorities, two representatives of the U Party, most of the members of Alianza Verde and one of Cambio Radical.

The result of the vote, in fact, was a surprise, since only two days ago, support for the bill seemed assured in the Senate. At that time the government of President Petro, following a court order, repealed the decree of the previous government that criminalized the carrying of drugs for personal use and consumption.

Criticism of the government for the timing

The liberal senator who proposed the law to legalize the adult and recreational use of marijuana harshly criticized the government of President Petro for having made the repeal of the previous government’s decree on the carrying of personal doses coincide with the debate on cannabis.

For legislators in favour of legalizing cannabis this coincidental timing was unfortunate, as it made it impossible to achieve the necessary parliamentary consensus to pass the bill.

“While I fully agree with the government of Gustavo Petro that this decree should be repealed, it must be said that in politics time and form also count. Of course, to have taken out this repeal of the decree three days before the cannabis debate is a blunder by the national government,” said Senator Juan Carlos Losada, of the Liberal Party, who had presented the bill.

“If the bill were to sink, I can say for sure that it sinks because of the national government and its lack of strategic planning when communicating what they wanted to do with the decree, but also when publishing what they wanted to do with the decree, which has been absolutely disastrous for the debate on cannabis for adult use,” concluded the liberal senator.

Reactions of the law’s defenders

Senator Losada has lamented the result. “The prohibitionist policy against drugs has plunged Colombia into a senseless war. Not regulating marijuana is to continue with the status quo that will continue to leave the business in the hands of the drug traffickers and that does nothing to protect children and adolescents,” said the liberal politician who promoted the legislation.

For his part, President Gustavo Petro has also reacted to the collapse of the bill. “By overturning the cannabis legalization law, the only thing that is done is to increase the profits of drug trafficking and its violence,” said the president in his X account.

Reactions from the opposition

Reactions from the opposition have been of celebration and relief. The first to congratulate himself for the result was the former president and leader of the conservative Democratic Center, Álvaro Uribe. The former president congratulated the senators “who with their vote prevented the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana”.

Likewise, former President Iván Duque (2018-2022), who legislated the decree that criminalized the carrying of personal doses of the drug, has also reacted by congratulating himself for the result of the vote.

“I congratulate all the congressmen who made it possible to shelve the draft legislative act that sought to regulate cannabis for adult use in the country. With this decision, families and homes of Colombians are protected”, wrote the former president in his social networks.

Old debate on how to fight drug traffickers

In reality, what happened yesterday in the Colombian Senate is the confrontation between two opposing ways of understanding the fight against drug trafficking. For the government and the progressive forces that support it, legalization is the way to put an end to the ravages of violence caused by the drug traffickers’ million dollar business.

For its part, the conservative opposition understands that legalization means the normalization of drug consumption, with the consequences for health, especially for the youngest, that this practice entails.

It is not a new debate in the country, which saw 50 years ago how cocaine escalated the incidence of violence in the country, with levels that have not stopped rising until today. While the security crisis of the big drug cartels in the 80s and 90s has been overcome, today a multitude of smaller organizations are trafficking illegal substances in even larger quantities than the Medellin and Cali cartels did 40 years ago.

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