In comparison, the use of illicit drugs – which are used illegally in Colombia and in which marijuana plays a larger role – accounted for 0.75% of Colombia`s GDP. Calculating numbers on an illicit market is never an exact science, but a 2016 study by the Colombian government estimated that drug trafficking, the flow of illicit drugs, mainly cocaine, produced in Colombia and sold in international markets from Europe to North America via Asia, accounted for up to 3.8% of Colombia`s GDP at the time. To date, the Colombian state faces challenges regarding the control of its territory by various criminal actors, from former leftist guerrillas and paramilitaries to drug cartels and organized crime syndicates. Drug trafficking is a powerful source of income for these criminals, and over the past 50 years, authorities have put forward a prohibitionist agenda that restricts drug trafficking and use to hit criminals in their pockets. But the flow of illegal drugs never stopped. Legalization is expected to start with marijuana, which accounts for 70% of the drugs consumed worldwide and provides the drug trade with the highest profits but also the lowest health risk. Bolivar said in an interview with CNN that it is hypocritical for the U.S. to legalize marijuana at home and support drug wars abroad, such as in Colombia, where Washington sends millions of dollars each year to arm and train Colombian armed forces in their fight against cartels. “We saw the legalization of recreational use for adults in two, three or four years later. but now we`re hoping it will be this year,” said Luis Merchan, a Colombian entrepreneur who is managing director of Flora Growth, a Toronto-based company that invests in Colombian marijuana, from medical cannabis to textile hemp.
Those who oppose legalization come from the conservative right and believe that change would only facilitate drug abuse. Former President Álvaro Uribe, a political mentor to Petro`s predecessor, Iván Duque, and the country`s leading supporter of conservatism, tweeted in 2020 that “recreational marijuana adapts to other drugs, affects neurons, the user reaches states of alienation, loses control of his decisions, which is the loss of his freedom,” after celebrating the stalemate of an earlier marijuana legalization project in Congress. These substitution policies have not always been successful in the past. It will not work as long as there is a large global market for cocaine. Consumption cannot be stopped, no matter what we do. Drugs do not always lead to problematic use, overdose or death,” adds Gil Pinzón, who considers it essential to destigmatize drugs. If cocaine were legal, people would have the choice of whether or not to use it, as with alcohol or tobacco. There are very few studies on the addition it produces. The huge sums of money allocated in weapons for the cameras, the researcher believes, could be used to study the effects of the substance to inform ± campaigns and access health services. The campaign to legalize marijuana in Colombia unites left-wing senators like Bolívar with civil society organizations and wealthy foreign investors and has received a boost over the past 12 months due to the country`s political changes, with Petro becoming president and progressive parties now forming the majority in Colombia`s Congress. But before international treaties are rewritten, Colombia could still have a legal battle ahead of it.
As it stands, the Colombian Constitution explicitly prohibits the consumption of narcotic drugs without a prescription; Even if Congress passes a law legalizing recreational marijuana, the Supreme Court could declare it unconstitutional. The politician envisions a network of state-regulated pharmacies where cocaine could be sold on prescription and regional agreements in other drug-producing countries. The world`s three largest cocaine producers (Bolivia, Colombia and Peru) are currently led by ideologically aligned left-wing leaders. Bolivia has a thriving legal market for coca derivatives, mainly dried leaves chewed by indigenous peoples, and as early as 2012, the governments of Bolivia and Colombia held multilateral meetings to lobby for a regional overhaul of drug policy. In recent weeks, the debate has begun at the world`s largest producer of cocaine. If anyone has to start this discussion, it is Colombia. “No one else will!” says Catalina Gil Pinzón, Commissioner of Drugs at the Open Society Foundations. The timing is right. Colombia`s new president, Gustavo Petro, speaks forcefully of changing the paradigm of the war on drugs that President Richard Nixon began half a century ago. The overall conclusion is that using the budget to persecute drug lords and forcibly eradicate coca leaf plantations has not worked. When a crop is fumigated on a mountain, it is brought to the opposite.
The result is that the flow of cocaine to the United States peaked in 2021©, while Colombia produces more than ever before. Washington has wasted $10 billion on failed policies over the past 20 years ±. The first to recognize the benefits of legalization were those responsible for the public purse. Colombia`s director of taxes and customs, Luis Carlos Reyes, put it bluntly: “We need to legalize and tax coca.” Earlier, Petro enthusiastically shared an op-ed in The Economist accusing Joseph Biden of being too savvy on the drug problem. The president of the United States had just pardoned 6,000 Americans convicted of possession ± a small amount of marijuana, but the magazine had a hard time daring to do such a thing with cocaine-related prisoners. Something similar happened to Petro. Their initial enthusiasm has not translated into a firm commitment to legalization. Former guerrillas are betting on the massive purchase of unproductive land from herders to give to farmers – the first major agrarian reform the country will carry out – creating a food industry that replaces the temptation to participate in the coca trade. His justice minister has categorically denied that the government will dare to do anything similar. No leader wants to show himself as a drug lover at the moment.