A proposed law which would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in Colombia passed the first hurdle yesterday after a Senate commission approved the bill, according to local media.
The bill, proposed by Liberal Party Senator Juan Manuel Galan, would allow the government to regulate the use of therapeutic and medicinal marijuana while also allowing scientific research.
Galan posted a long series of tweets the day of the debate, many of which highlighted the medicinal benefits of the plant: “Through medical marijuana we can treat sickness and pains that cannot be treated with opiates.”
The bill received the support of Colombia’s current administration, which has expressed support in the past for the liberalization of the country’s drug laws.
“This project is of great importance to the country… in a country like Colombia, it is very important that we open a public debate on this topic, without disqualifications, stigmatization, or polarization,” Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo said regarding the debate, according to El Tiempo.
Another senator supporting the law, Roy Barreras of the U Party, described the law as “timid” and called for the legalization of marijuana and cocaine for recreational use.
“Marijana and cocaine is demonized with the argument that they are bad. But chicarron and chorizo (types of meat) are worse as they cause heart attacks and clog the arteries,” argued Barreras, who is also a doctor.
Other supporters of the initiative include the Catholic church in Colombia, according to Galan.
During the debate, Barreras invited his colleagues to try some “delicious” coca tea which was distributed among the senators as a demonstration of the plants natural qualities. Some were surprised by his invitation, but many partook, and it reportedly lightened the atmosphere.
The few objections to the proposed law were raised by opposition senators from former President Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center party. Senator Paloma Valencia said she was concerned about the “difficulties of implementation” of the law, while Jose Gaviria said he wanted to consult with his party, which appears to not have a clear position on the law.
One Democratic Center senator, Jaime Amin, did approve of the bill.
Many of the supporters of the bill, including Galan and Barreras, denied that they have ever tried marijuana, though several admitted to drinking coca tea, a common beverage in the Andes.
Santos behind medical marijuana
President Santos himself has expressed support for Galan’s bill in the past.
“We look favorably on the initiative regarding the therapeutic and medical use of marijuana,” said Santos about the proposed law in August.
According to the president, “we understand it is a practical and passive measure to reduce pain of terminal patients.”
The Colombian President, joined by other Latin American counterparts and former US President Jimmy Carter, has been calling to rethink the US-led war on drugs for years.
During his first term, Santos retracted legislation pushed through Congress by his predecessor, former President Alvaro Uribe, that penalized the carrying of marijuana or cocaine for personal use.
Supported by the country’s constitutional court, the current legislation impedes authorities to punish someone if caught carrying less than 20 grams of marijuana or one gram of cocaine.
Marijuana has been used to reduce nausea and vomiting of HIV / AIDS patents, and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. A number of US states and European countries have already legalized the medical use of marijuana.