Colombia’s National Dialogue for the Future of Drug Policy convened for the first time on Friday to begin a discussion about drug policy reform with members of the public.
According to the Minister of Justice, Colombia needs to begin looking for alternatives to repressive drug policies.
“We do not think that the solution to the drug problem is prison. If it were, we would have fixed the problem [by now],” said Minister Yesid Reyes Alvarado, upon opening the first session of the National Dialogue for the Future of Drug Policy.
In a search for alternative solutions, members of academia, political groups, and unions were invited to participate in the first of 10 national and regional forums organized by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and the Ministry of Public Affairs.
At the first forum, called “What do citizens think about drug policy?” the director of the Ideas for Peace Foundation presented findings based on a survey of 61 recognized experts. In the eyes of the respondents, 42 of them considered current policy to be ineffective, costly, and repressive, believing that it has actually strengthened the drug trade and increased criminal levels of violence in the country.
The study also found that all 61 experts acknowledged that the policy “must change,” and that focus on public health must be a priority.
Professor Wilson Lopez, researcher at the Javeriana University, also presented his research entitled “Prohibition, regulation or free market: the perception of the people.” The study of 395 adults in Bogota found that residents of the nation’s capital consider the prohibitionist approach to be “not the only way to tackle the problem,” and that reform should focus on education and prevention.
The dialogue closed with a presentation by Eduardo Vergara, director and founder of the Latin American Observatory on Drugs and Public Opinion, who emphasized that drug policy must be specifically adapted to different regions of Latin America.
“I think is that we must overcome the moralistic discourse and start thinking country by country [about] what alternatives or solutions might be better. What worked in Uruguay will not necessarily work for Colombia or Chile,” said Lopez. “Using the same strategy against drugs for different regions over the past 40 years has proven not to be the way.”
- Con éxito culminó el primer foro del Diálogo Nacional sobre el Futuro de la Política de Drogas (Ministry of Justice)
- Drug-related Resolutions and Decisions (UNODC World Drug Report 2014)