By / May 12, 2023

Colombian House of Reps Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill

The project to legalize cannabis in Colombia has officially been adopted by the country’s House of Representatives. The new law must now be submitted to the Senate to overcome the final two hurdles before potentially being transmitted to the president.

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Colombia Opens a New Chapter

After a close vote last month, lawmakers resumed the bill on Tuesday, approving it during the sixth of the eight required debates with a vote of 98 to 57. The bill must now be submitted to a Senate committee, then passed by the Senate to be enacted in Colombia.

Colombia is “ready to take a step forward towards a new drug policy that abandons the failed paradigm of prohibition and paves the way for a policy guided by public health guidelines, prevention of consumption, and guaranteeing citizens’ rights,” said the bill’s author, Representative Juan Carlos Losada Vargas of the Liberal Party.

“We are just a step away from starting to write a new chapter in the fight against drugs; at this stage, it is a matter of political will,” he said. “Every vote is decisive” for Colombia.

Previous Versions of Cannabis Bill for Colombia

Last year, the House and Senate passed different versions of legalization legislation for Colombia, and both bodies decided to make the bills identical in December. The Senate overwhelmingly approved its version of the bill that month after receiving initial approval from the House.

As a constitutional amendment proposal, the proposal must go through the complete legislative process in each chamber twice, in separate calendar years, to be enacted in Colombia.

Colombia Cannabis Bill Details

The legalization bill supports “the right to the free development of personality, allowing citizens to decide on cannabis consumption within a regulated legal framework” in Colombia. It would also mitigate “arbitrary, discriminatory, or unequal treatment faced by the consuming population.”

It also calls for public education campaigns and the promotion of addiction treatment services.

Colombia Victim of Failed War on Drugs

During a public hearing in the Senate last year, Justice Minister Néstor Osuna said Colombia had been a victim of a “failed war designed 50 years ago that, due to absurd prohibitionism, brought us a lot of bloodshed, armed conflicts, mafias, and crimes.”

The House of Representatives gave its initial approval to the legalization project for Colombia last year. The head of the Interior Ministry also expressed support for the reform proposal at the time. This vote came shortly after a congressional committee advanced this measure and another legalization bill.

President Discusses Cannabis Bill Benefits

President Gustavo Petro, a progressive who has vigorously advocated for an end to drug criminalization at the international level since taking office in August, discussed the potential benefits of cannabis legalization.

Last year, the Colombian president delivered a speech at a United Nations (UN) meeting, urging member countries to radically change their approach to drug policy and end prohibition.

Economic Benefits and Black Market Impacts

Mr. Petro also mentioned the possibility of legalizing cannabis in Colombia to reduce the influence of the illicit market. He also indicated that this policy change should be followed by the release of individuals currently imprisoned for cannabis possession.

He mentioned the economic potential of a legal cannabis industry in Colombia, in which small towns in the Andes, such as Corinto and Miranda, could benefit from legal cannabis cultivation, potentially without the need for a license.

(Featured image by Jose Vasquez via Pexels)

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