In a significant setback for cannabis advocates, Colombia’s Senate voted against a measure to approve the sale of recreational cannabis to adults late on Tuesday. Despite the defeat, supporters, including the government of leftist President Gustavo Petro, remain committed to pursuing legalization.
Existing Cannabis Regulations in Colombia
Colombia already permits the production and sale of certain cannabis-derived products for medicinal purposes. Under legislation passed in the 1980s and 1990s, individuals are allowed to consume and cultivate up to 20 cannabis plants. However, recreational sales of the drug remain illegal, and opponents of legalization celebrated the bill’s failure, citing concerns about safeguarding children and families.
“I don’t consider this a defeat; we have taken a giant step, four years of putting such a controversial issue at the top of the public agenda, of the public debate,” Liberal Party Senator Juan Carlos Losada, who presented the bill, said, adding that it would be introduced again in the next legislative session.
“Continuing to leave a substance that is legal in the hands of the drug traffickers and drug dealers is detrimental to the children of Colombia and detrimental to the country’s democracy,” Losada said.
Colombia’s Position Compared to Other Countries
While countries like Uruguay, Canada, and some U.S. states have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana, Colombia continues to grapple with the issue. Investors have long expressed frustration over the challenging export approval process for medicinal cannabis in the country.
The Proposed Bill and Its Defeat
The defeated bill aimed to impose restrictions on the use and sale of cannabis and its derived products in schools, universities, and public spaces. Proponents, including Interior Minister Luis Fernando Velasco, argued that the continued criminalization of recreational marijuana only benefits illicit actors. Despite the setback, Velasco affirmed the government’s determination to persist in their efforts to push for legalization.
The Close Vote and Future Prospects
The proposed bill fell short of the required 54 votes, with 47 in favor and 43 against. Liberal Party representative Juan Carlos Losada expressed disappointment, noting that the legislation needed just seven more votes to pass. Despite the defeat, supporters of cannabis reform remain hopeful and plan to regroup for future endeavors.
Upcoming Legislative Agenda
While the focus on cannabis legalization continues, other legislative priorities are also on the horizon. An ambitious health reform proposal, which led to the fragmentation of President Petro’s congressional coalition, will carry over to the new legislative session in July. Additionally, a pension reform proposal secured committee approval, while a labor reform measure will need to be reintroduced after failing to reach the required quorum during its initial debate in the lower house.
The path toward cannabis legalization in Colombia may have faced a setback, but advocates remain determined to advance their cause, considering the experiences of other countries and the potential economic and social benefits associated with the regulated sale of recreational marijuana.
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