Cannabis Legalization Bill Approved By Colombian Senate

The Senate of Colombia has voted to approve a cannabis legalization bill.

Senators in Colombia have gathered many times over the past few weeks to discuss a cannabis legalization amendment to the constitution. On Dec. 6, the amendment was passed in a 56-3 vote.

“Historic plenary approval of the project to regularize #CannabisDeUsoAdulto in its fourth debate. We made progress in changing the country’s drug policy. Great team with @JuanKarloslos #EsHoraDeRegular,” Sen. María José Pizarro Rodríguez wrote in a translated Twitter post.

On that same day, she also mentioned how the tobacco and alcohol industries are more harmful than cannabis, sharing that more than 20,000 people die each year to smoking-related diseases, and 1 in 20 deaths are related to alcohol consumption.

Rodríguez worked with Chamber Rep. Juan Carlos Losada, the sponsor of the bill, to push reform. “Today is a HISTORIC day. With the leadership of @PizarroMariaJo and a @SenadoGovCo more progressive and liberal we achieved approval in the 4th debate of the project that regulates #CannabisDeUsoAdulto. A huge step to advance a new drug policy,” Losada wrote.

If passed, the bill would amend Article 49 and offer “the right of the free development of the personality, allowing citizens to decide on the consumption of cannabis in a regulated legal framework.” In legalizing cannabis the amendment would also establish regulations and taxes for legal cannabis sales, and organize how to divide revenue between local cities, as well as health, education, and agriculture departments. It also calls for a ban of cannabis in schools and public areas and would establish a public education campaign.

The bill moved on to the Senate after the First Commission of the House of Representatives passed it on Oct. 11 with a 105-33 vote.

In Colombia, constitutional amendments must be discussed in a total of eight discussions over the course of two years. The most recent Senate approval marked the fourth discussion. Once all of the discussions have been held, it can proceed to Colombia President Gustavo Petro for review. Finally, if signed into law it gives state legislators six months to establish adult-use regulations.

Although Petro hasn’t confirmed that he would sign such an amendment, he has continually supported ending criminalization of drugs since he was inaugurated in August 2022. 

In September, Petro spoke to the United Nations about how the War on Drugs has failed. “I propose to you as President of one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, and one of the most bloodstained and violent, to end the War on Drugs, and thus allow our people to live in peace,” Petro said in his inauguration speech. “The War on Drugs has lasted 40 years. If we do not correct the course, and this continues another 40 years, the United States will see 2.8 million die of overdoses, which is not produced in our Latin America. You will see millions of African Americans be imprisoned in their private prisons. The prisoner will become a business of prison companies.”

On Nov. 25, Petro met with the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. “If I had to summarize the relationship between our peoples and the government of Colombian President Gustavo Petro in one word, I would say: brotherhood,” Obrador said in a Twitter statement.

Together, both Obrador and Petro announced a joint effort to create an international conference that addresses how to rethink drug policy. “Recognizing the failure of the fight against drugs and the vulnerability of our peoples in the face of this problem, Mexico and Colombia will convene an International Conference of Latin American leaders with the objective of redesigning and rethinking drug policy,” both countries said in a joint statement.

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