Colombia: medical marijuana legalization challenge to Washington

Posted on December 24th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

ColombiaFollowing through on a pledge made last month, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Dec. 22 signed a decree broadly legalizing medical marijuana. The new regulation—making it legal to grow, process, import and export cannabis for medical and scientific use—was hailed by Santos as positioning Colombia "at the forefront in the fight against disease." In a line clearly aimed at placating Washington, he also insisted that "the medicinal use of cannabis does not go counter to our international commitments in the field of drug control."

Under the new policy, those seeking to grow medicinal cannabis commercially or to manufacturer cannabis-based medicinal products may apply for a license with the Health Ministry. Regulators will also consider permits for those seeking to export medicinal cannabis products. Santos said that the goal of the policy "is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible."

The decree actually enacts language codified in 1986 as Law 30, or the National Narcotics Statute (Estatuto Nacional de Estupefacientes)—a generally hardline measure that nonetheless made note of the right to medical use of cannabis. Law 30 was first modified by Constitutional Court ruling C-221 of May 1994, delivered by Magistrate Carlos Gaviria Díaz. This overturned the strictures on personal use of drugs, finding that they violate the right to the "free development of personality." Colombia had decriminalized, just as Washington was launching a massive military aid package in the name of narcotics enforcement.

Since then, pressure for both a rollback of the decrim policy and for a broader liberalization have mounted. The Citizen Security Law of 2011 re-imposed penalties for personal possession (defined as up to 20 grams in the case of cannabis), but this was never enforced due to intervention from the judiciary. In its ruling C-491 in 2012, the Constitutional Court once again made clear that possession of personal quantities remains decriminalized. Sale and public use continue to be officially criminalized—although small "tolerance zones" exist in some cities where the law goes unenforced.

Santos' new decree provides a regulatory framework for the medical marijuana language in Law 30—which has been awaiting enabling legislation all these years. Colombia's Congress is currently debating a separate medical marijuana law that would define cultivation limits and other production details. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Juan Manuel Galan, told AFP he hopes to have it signed into law by June.

Colombia has received $9 billion in US aid (mostly military) since 1999 under "Plan Colombia" and related programs. The 2011 attempt to roll back the decrim policy came under the hardline president Alvaro Uribe, who is today a harsh critic of Santos' efforts to win a peace deal with the FARC guerillas. Santos also called a halt to aerial spraying of glyphosate against coca crops this year. Santos—himself Uribe's former defense minister—now presents another challenge, both to Colombia's own political right and his Washington underwriters. (More at Jurist, NORML, Dec. 23; BBC News, EFE, El Mundo, Dec. 22; TNI)



Backlash to Colombia medical marijuana decree

Global Ganja Report's picture Bogotá city council member Marco Fidel Ramírez is demanidng that the government reppeal Decree 2467, legalizing medical marijuana, or instate a regulatory framework to oversee its implementation, assuring that use be confined to medical and scientific purposes. (El Espectador, Jan. 14)
Comment by Global Ganja Report on Jan 24th, 2016 at 12:43 am

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