Things are changing in Colombia, where drug traffickers, guerrillas and military groups once terrorized everyone from peasants to politicians. At the center of the violence, most would argue, were drugs—mostly cocaine but also pot.
Now, medical marijuana entrepreneurs are coming out from the shadows. According to Colombia’s constitution, weed cultivation and consumption is legal for medicinal purposes, although the Health and Social Protection Ministry has not yet created regulations for prescribing treatments, Camilo García, executive director of the Colombian Cannabis Research Center, told OZY.
Patients in need of medical pot have been pushing the Colombian government to reform laws and lift all restrictions. A bill introduced last year was endorsed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, as well as a majority of Colombians.
Although some Colombians see legalization of medical marijuana as opening the door to recreational use, others worry that keeping it under-regulated could have more serious outcomes.
John Walsh, a senior associate for drug policy at the Washington Office on Latin America, said the usual suspects are not on board because legalization could affect the “thriving black markets where criminal organizations dominate.”
Some entrepreneurs—like Juan Pablo Guzman, who began growing pot 20 years ago when he needed permission from the rebels, army and police to sell his crops—are now producing medical marijuana.
Now, he says, he makes products to help people in pain. Although there are still wrinkles in the legalization situation in Colombia, Guzman said that at least now indigenous groups and farmers who grow pot won’t be forced to sell their product to drug traffickers. They can sell to companies that make medicine.
“This is the true revolution,” Guzman said.