Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday strongly spoke out in defense of his government’s plans to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of synthetic drugs.
“What the government is doing [by introducing a law to regulate synthetic drugs], is something that has been ordered by the Constitutional Court,” said Santos, while speaking in Cartagena on Thursday.
Santos is referring to the constitutional court’s ruling in 2011 that criminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use was unconstitutional.
“They [the critics] distort the message and start claiming that the government is selling drugs and encouraging children to use drugs. Lies!,” pronounced Santos.
The President concluded his argument with a hypothetical scenario directed at Colombia’s parents.
“I ask all mothers and fathers, and I have a very clear answer, so I am going to say to you all…I have two sons and one daughter, if the police found [one of] them with a small amount of drugs, what would I prefer – that they are thrown into a jail cell or taken to a rehabilitation center? I would far prefer a society that would leave them in a rehabilitation center, and this is the dilemma,” Santos concluded.
Colombian law currently allows for the legal possession of one gram of cocaine and 20 grams of marijuana. Under the future drug statute the Santos government intends to propose, the laws governing the possession of synthetic drugs would be brought into line with those already established for marijuana and cocaine.
The recent moves in Colombia to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hitherto illicit substances is yet another sign of the shifting approach towards the war on drugs in Colombia and Latin America as a whole. The punitive approach that viewed drug use as a criminal matter is fast being replaced by one which sees addiction, at least on an individual basis, as a public health issue.
BACKGROUND: ‘War on drugs’ needs rethinking: Santos, Carter,