Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree on Tuesday that legalizes the use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. Colombia joins other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Chile, and Uruguay that have made this long overdue move.
Marijuana has been consumed for two decades in the country, and President Santos admitted that its use was never regulated. There is also confusion on the “minimum personal dose” that a Colombian can legally have, but now, a monitoring mechanism will be established.
“This decree allows licenses for possession of cannabis seeds and that the plant is grown exclusively for medical and scientific purposes. I repeat, only for medical and scientific purposes,” President Santos said.
The decree dictates that legal entities or individuals may grow, manufacture, distribute, export, import, trade, and use cannabis and its derivatives for medical and scientific applications, but they have to apply for a license to the National Narcotics Council (CNE) and the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MSPS).
Aside from profiling, agents of the CNE and the MSPS will also check on cannabis farms, manufacturing and production areas, and storage warehouses to ensure that the products are of highest quality. Colombia is known to be the biggest supplier of cocaine to the United States, where several areas have also legalized the use of marijuana.
Pharmacies are not allowed to acquire or sell raw marijuana, only marijuana-infused medicine. Numerous studies have shown that marijuana has the potential to reduce seizures in epileptic patients, but there are also contradictory effects. Those who support the decree are finally relieved as about 400,000 Colombians with epilepsy and other diseases will be benefitted.
“This is a fundamental step to help the people who have medically chronic and severe pains. It also has the opportunity to alleviate the pain of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, and chemotherapy treatments, among others,” said Senator Juan Manuel Galan, one of the senators of led the initiative towards marijuana’s legalization.
Galan added that the next debate should now focus on how these patients can access the medicines derived from marijuana.
The President echoes his sentiment, saying, “We want to promote research and production of drugs made from cannabis, just like what we do with any natural element that can give relief to disease of pain. What we seek is that patients have access to drugs that are safe, produced domestically, and have the best quality.”
But Santos made it clear that Colombia stands firm on its fight against illegal drugs, as recreational use of marijuana is still illegal.
“We will not go against our international commitments in the field of drug control, much less go against our policy to combat drug trafficking.”
Santos, who has previously admitted that he smoked marijuana in college at the University of Kansas, has been supportive of the decree (then bill) ever since.