In the coming months, the Congress of the Republic will decide the fate of one of the most important and controversial discussions of recent times. It is the constitutional reform that seeks to authorize the creation of a legal cannabis market for adult use in Colombia.
This is not the first time that this initiative is being discussed in Congress, what is new is that it has a real chance of being approved, since Colombia managed to overcome the first round in Congress and it is only 4 debates away from achieving the constitutional reform.
Five years ago, when the discussion of cannabis was first taken to Congress, Colombians were fully certain that, in a legislative body with conservative majorities, it was virtually impossible to approve a project of this nature. However, simultaneously with an assured defeat, people in Colombia always had the conviction that someday – much sooner rather than later – the project was going to go ahead. Well, it seems that day has arrived.
The regulation of cannabis for adult use in Colombia is the gateway to a new drug policy that abandons the failed paradigm of prohibition and opens the field to a policy guided by public health guidelines, the prevention of consumption, and the guarantee of care for users. The abandonment of prohibitionism also leads, irremediably, to the subtraction of illegal rents that have been the fuel that has allowed the perpetuation of war and violence in the country. This project is a step towards Total Peace.
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The creation of a legal market for cannabis and its derivatives is a debate that has to be faced with all the necessary courage
The project has several detractors, many of them with valid and reasonable concerns that can be summarized in three points: the possibility of an increase in consumption, the possible risks that the creation of a market could generate in minors, and the lack of capacity of the health system to face a possible health crisis derived from an increase in consumption.
However, none of these three arguments is supported by factual evidence; in fact, the academic literature suggests the opposite. There is not a single study that shows that cannabis regulation can be attributed to an increase in consumption; on the contrary, there is evidence of a later age of onset of consumption and a significant decrease in violent crime. It should also be noted that the consumption of a regulated substance is much less risky, which has a direct effect on the possibility that the health system can continue to attend to cases of problematic consumption.
If this were a purely technical debate, the whole world would have abandoned prohibition many years ago. But it is almost a truism to say that the nature of the debate is political, and that it will be precisely the configuration of the majorities in Congress that in the next 3 months will decide whether Colombia will begin to correct a historic mistake that has cost so many lives that now number in the tens of thousands.
Intellectual honesty is a rare and undervalued quality in the rough and tumble world of politics. Recognizing that one’s political positions can change when the evidence and argumentation is convincing represents the purest democratic spirit. In the cannabis debate, this was seen time and again. Many parliamentarians who were previously fervently opposed to the initiative have been seduced by the evidence. In fact, this initiative was supported by all political parties, including the Democratic Center, the Conservative Party, and Cambio Radical.
The pedagogy and exposure of evidence has been the best ally in this cause, which is why it hurts so much every time that sectors related to regulation have used the romanticization of consumption to defend the project. Let us be absolutely clear about one thing: the consumption of cannabis and any other psychoactive substance, licit or illicit, poses significant health risks and this reality should not and cannot be disregarded.
That is why what is sought with the cannabis regulation project and with a new drug policy is that the State and its institutions, not illegality, should be the authority that regulates the market. When a State decides to act in the face of a public problem, the first thing that must be guaranteed is that its action does not generate more damage. Regulation will save lives that prohibition could not.
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First published in Semana, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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