Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe, leader of the conservative opposition in the Senate, wants the state to have the monopoly on the cultivation and sales of medical marijuana if approved by law.
The bill to find a framework for legalizing marijuana for medicinal, therapeutic, and scientific purposes passed the first senatorial debate last week.
The bill is strongly supported by the current governing liberal administration. President Juan Manuel Santos has also declared support in the past for the legalization of medicinal marijuana.
The head of Colombia’s opposition party, Alvaro Uribe, presented an alternative proposal. The main point of his proposal was to ensure that marijuana grown for scientific purposes remains in the control of the government.
“We do not agree with the [Senate’s approval]. We accept that under the direction of the state we can investigate how a drug, like marijuana, can serve therapeutic [purposes]. Now if the state needs crops for research, those crops are in the control of the state,” he said in a press release.
Uribe expressed his concern over potential complications with legalizing marijuana in a country that has been so impacted by drug-related activity, stating “in a country that has suffered so much from drugs… a drug that has destroyed families, new generations; the prestige of the Colombian community, how can we now permit that transnational [actors] come… and plant marijuana in Colombia!”
Colombia was home to one of the most notorious drug traffickers or recent times and much of the profits related to drug trafficking in Colombia has been used to fund forces involved in the continuing conflict. This naturally leads to concerns regarding any significant change in the legalization and control of drugs in Colombia, particularly when international actors are involved.
However, the senator who submitted the bill, Juan Manuel Galan, thinks that keeping marijuana criminalized is a waste of resources. This waste of resources may even result in the enabling of corruption in the fight against narco-trafficking, as law enforcement personnel are stretched too thin.
“It is useless, costly and absurd to continue chasing marijuana and continue capturing people and conducting confiscations on this topic,” Galan said as quoted from Colmundo Radio.
The Supreme Court in 2011 had previously ruled that extreme anti-drug laws put in place in 2009 by President Uribe were unconstitutional.
The Santos administration also ratified a bill in 2012 that recognized drug addiction as a public health issue, meaning that insurance companies are obligated to cover the costs of treatment for drug addicts undergoing recovery processes.
Proponents of the bill note that there is a lot of potential for assisting patients suffering from great amount of pain or who are facing a terminal illness, making it a useful tool in easing human suffering.
The bill could see up to six more debates (with one more optional debate after that) before it can finally be passed for ratification by the president and the Constitutional Court.