Colombia’s congress strikes back at Duque with bills to end war on drugs

Colombia’s opposition and center-right voting block on Tuesday presented a number of bills that seek to decriminalize drug use and ban glyphosate, the chemical the government wants to use to fumigate coca.

The four bills are the first of eight punches in the gut of President Ivan Duque who is trying to resume the aerial fumigation of coca with glyphosate and unsuccessfully banned the consumption of drugs like alcohol and marijuana in public last year.

The package of bills seeks to reverse the entire repressive drug policy of the government that can count on the support of only a minority of conservative and far-right parties in Congress.

What the lawmakers of the opposition and the center-right voting block want is to curb drug abuse by strengthening health care and drug trafficking through voluntary crop substitution and rural development.

The congressmen previously announced they would also seek the legalization of marijuana, but this proposal was not part of the first part of the drug policy reform package.


Colombia’s congress preparing bill to legalize marijuana


Destroying Duque’s drug policy part 1: drug trafficking

According to the proponents of the bills, the war on drugs promoted by the United States since the 1970s has failed and requires an urgent and comprehensive policy reform in Colombia to pursue a long-term solution to drug trafficking, and that of cocaine in particular.

One of the bills seeks a full ban glyphosate, a chemical widely believed to be carcinogenic, but proposed by Duque and the US government to be used in the aerial fumigation of coca.

Instead, the lawmakers want the government to follow the recommendations of the United Nations’ Office on Drugs (UNODC) and Crime by reducing the production of coca through crop substitution and rural development that would allow farmers access to the legal economy.

Another bill wants to make a legal distinction between small farmers who grow coca and large coca plantations that are often run by organized crime organizations.

This bill that would shield small farmers from criminal prosecution was part of the peace process, but never made it through congress.

If approved, the bills would make Duque’s drug policy illegal and force him to execute the drug policy recommended by the UNODC and execute the crop substitution and rural development programs that have all been abandoned by the government.

Destroying Duque’s drug policy part 1: drug abuse

The promoted bill would ban Duque’s or any drug policy that criminalizes drug use and obligate any government to formulate its drug policy based on public health.

The carrying and consumption of narcotic, psychoactive or psychotropic substances shall be regulated by law with an approach focused on public health, human rights, risk and harm reduction, social determinants, as well as the elimination of stigma and discrimination, and the non-criminalization of consumption.

Proposed drug bill

According to proponents, the war on drugs and prohibitionist policies have failed. In fact, the lawmakers claim, they have contributed to a sharp increase in drug use and benefited organized crime organizations.

The lawmakers said that between surveys carried out in 1992 and 2013 show a 252% increase in people who have used illicit drugs at least once in their lives and a 475% increase in people who have used illicit drugs in the last month.

To more effectively combat drug abuse, the bill obligates administrations to make a distinction between substances based on their impact on public health and offer rehabilitation programs for people who are addicted to drugs.

For preventive and rehabilitative purposes, the law shall establish administrative measures and treatments of a pedagogical, prophylactic or therapeutic nature for the comprehensive care of persons who use these substances. Access to these measures and treatments requires the informed consent of the user. In the responses to the use of narcotic, psychoactive or psychotropic substances, the State will implement a differential approach that distinguishes between different types of consumption and substances, as well as differentiated impacts on groups in situations of vulnerability.

Proposed drug bill

The lawmakers also proposed the creation of a government institute in charge of developing and formulating policy proposals to prevent drug use through education and come up with the public health initiatives necessary to attend drug addiction.

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