As of today, December 23, 2015, medical marijuana is legal in Colombia. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed the decree yesterday. He called the new rules “a major step that puts Colombia at the vanguard and forefront of the fight against illnesses.”
Watch President Santos sign the decree here
The new rules only impact the sale and growing of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes. Colombian Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez opposed the move, stating it will “weaken the fight against drugs and threaten citizens.” The drug war in Colombia has been focused on cocaine instead of marijuana for many years.
Those in favor of legal medical marijuana hope the new rules will benefit local growers. They fear that the drug industry may displace the local growers. They are asking for guarantees for equal access to permits and protections against a monopoly by the big drug companies.
Under the new law, permits will be issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection (MSPS) and National Council on Narcotics (CNE). These permits will also allow international export of cannabis-based medical products.
While officially illegal, possession of small amounts of marijuana and other drugs have been allowed in Colombia for many years. This is based on a line of Constitutional Court rulings about the “free development of one’s personality.” Mexico’s supreme court also ruled that citizens can grow marijuana for personal recreational use. A bill legalizing recreational use in Chile is currently being considered in the Senate after passing the lower house of Congress. Marijuana has been fully legal in Uruguay since 2013.
Colombia has been a close ally and follower of US-backed drug policies for many years. These policies are believed to have drastically reduced violence over the past 15 years. Those in favor of the new rules estimate that around 400,000 Colombian citizens with health problems will benefit.
In the United States, both marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, though federal law still classifies marijuana as illegal. Medical use of marijuana is legal in many other states, and legalization efforts are attempting to expand these relaxed rules.
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