Colombia’s Constitutional Court has lifted a ban on the public consumption of marijuana. The move comes seven years after the possession of small quantities of cannabis and other prohibited drugs was decriminalized in the country, and four years after medical cannabis was legalized.
More specifically, the court declared Colombian president Iván Duque’s Police Code unconstitutional and a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens.
The Police Code was put into effect in 2017 and it banned the consumption of cannabis in public, among other things. Duque’s conservative administration had argued that many of the Police Code’s provisions exist to protect the safety of children.
However, the court ruled that instead of protecting public and children safety, the code violates constitutional rights. Needless to say, many are saying that the court’s ruling creates a paradigm shift in the country.
Opposition Senator Gustavo Bolivar said that the Police Code was put in place as a political attempt to punish and limit the use of cannabis. He also pointed out that many provisions of the code are “unjustified” and “onerous.”
A badly written law
The court did not base its ruling on the code’s being unjustified or onerous, though. According to a report by L.A. Weekly, the basis of the court’s decision was actually technical legislative errors instead of a political will to support the consumption of drugs in public spaces.
The Police Code was reportedly so badly drafted that the court felt it had to be overturned. The ruling was more of the court’s way of forcing Congress to rewrite the Code so that it is more sensible.
The order even referred to the “place and circumstance (…) reasonableness and proportionality” of the Code.
President Duque has been a vocal opponent of recreational cannabis legalization. And even if he understands the economic potential of cannabis, he was not happy about the court’s decision. He said he would accept it, though.
Meanwhile, Sandra Carrillo, M.D., a Colombian medical doctor who is a certified expert in cannabis medicine, told Forbes that she is happy about the court’s overturning of a “badly written law” since it would require the government to write a clearer and more sensible one. Carrillo also acknowledged that while “cannabis consumption has health risks,” those risks are way less than the risks posed by consuming alcohol or tobacco.”
The government, she said, must think it through and come up with a fair and reasonable regulatory regime, rather than repeat the errors of the past.
Cannabis in Colombia
Through Law 1787, the use of cannabis for medical purposes became legal in Colombia in 2015. A licensing framework and regulations were then established in 2017. Under present laws, every household is allowed to grow up to 20 cannabis plants. However, the sale and purchase of cannabis remain prohibited.
Colombia actually has the ideal conditions to grow cannabis plants. Aside from that, it has the legal framework and the labor force necessary to make the cannabis industry profitable. What’s more, it has an export quota that represents more than 25 percent of the world’s total cannabis.
Many people are hoping that the court’s ruling is a stepping stone towards full cannabis legalization.
In fact, according to Colombia media, a multi-party block is now working on a proposal for a complete shift in the “War on Drugs” via a far-reaching drug policy reform legislation. The group intends to present the bill into Congress at the end of next month.
It should be noted that in the last 15 years, Colombia has spent more than $140 million in its fight against traffickers.