The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime met with government representatives to find out more about a proposal put forward by Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro to open centers where addicts can consume drugs in a controlled environments and receive treatment.
President Juan Manuel Santos has labelled the plans “irresponsible” without further study, calling on the mayor to wait for the results of a study conducted by the Organization of American States on the impact of drug legalization. Santos has, however, recently ratified a law deeming drug addiction a public health issue rather than a crime.
The Prosecutor General has called the proposal “unconstitutional” and accused Petro of creating a “criminal policy to reduce crime murders and robberies,” while the Minister for Health warned that “the state [could] not provide illegal drugs to its citizens.”
Ruben Dario Ramirez, the director of a government research center that is working on the proposal, said he had discussed controlled consumption and mobile care centers with the UN.
It was being considered as a policy which would change “the mentality of repression and assistance which is how the issue of drugs is being dealt with today,” said Ramirez.
The first pilot centres will be opened in an area of Colombia’s capital, Bogota, known as “The Bronx”, and in San Bernardo. They will provide access to doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, dentists and nurses.
Petro has met with severe criticism but in a statement on his website claimed that a “comprehensive policy in relation to drugs” was necessary to “reduce the harm caused by drug use and trafficking.”
Bogota’s Health Secretary Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo supports the project, citing studies in Europe which have shown such initiatives to act as a public health service while also reducing crime.
“The drugs consumption policy cannot continue only along the same lines as we have been following,” said Jaramillo. “It must also include a prevention policy that provides care centers for detoxification.”