Colombia Decriminalizes Small Quantities of Cocaine, Marijuana

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Colombia’s Constitutional Court has approved a government bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana, reversing a 2009 law.

On Friday, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of a bill to decriminalize possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana or 1 gram of cocaine, reported Caracol Radio.

Under the new law, anyone found with less than the amounts specified cannot be prosecuted, though they may be ordered to undergo treatment depending on their level of addiction.

Colombia first decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs in 1994, but then-President Alvaro Uribe overturned the decision 15 years later with a constitutional amendment. In August last year, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional, paving the way for the current government to propose new legislation on decriminalization.

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The court’s ruling has not been met with universal praise from Colombian politicians and lawmakers. The country’s inspector general, Alejandro Ordoñez, was quick to lambast the decision, deeming it detrimental to Colombia’s fight against drug trafficking, particularly the domestic drug trade. Ordoñez declared that he would do everything in his power to reverse the decision, reported Semana.

Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre backed the ruling, however, stating that drug consumption must be treated as a public health problem and not a criminal offence.

Decriminalization laws are nothing new to Latin America with a number of countries — from the Southern Cone to Mexico — having enacted them over the last two decades. However, the impetus to discuss decriminalization or legalization as alternatives to punitive measures of drug control has grown significantly this year, with President Juan Manuel Santos among the most vocal advocates of a new approach. Santos stated earlier this year that Colombia would be open to legalization if it were adopted worldwide.

Last week the Uruguayan government made one of the boldest proposals yet in the region, announcing it was considering legalizing and regulating marijuana sales in the country.

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