|Smoking on a streetcorner: soon to be banned in Colombia?|
The proposed law did not, however, propose courageous changes which might contribute to a shift in drug control strategies.
The proposed law had positives: for example, it would cover both legal and illegal drugs, instead of insisting on the lie that there are two categories of psychoactive substances: those that are legal and good and others which are bad and deserve prohibition.
|Just don't breath if you're behind me.|
The proposed law would also have banned alcohol advertising at cultural and sporting events. Inebriation certainly causes lots of damage in Colombia, including sports-related violence - but alcohol also funds lots of activities and plays an important role in Colombian culture. Lots of people enjoy drinking without harming others. Where is the best balance between puritanism, prohibitionism and healthy recreation?
|A giant Aguila beer shirt at a football game. Some Colombian teams are in bankruptcy. Would the sport survive without alcohol money?|
|Fans fight at a football game: much of it is fueled by alcohol.|
|Coca tea and leaves: headed toward more regulation?|
But the proposed law did not take even baby steps toward decriminalizing illegal drugs, even tho criminal groups financed by illegal drugs have done more damage to Colombia than perhaps any other nation. Legislators might consider decriminalizing personal use of marijuana or even restate the old personal dosis of drugs. This would surely bring complaints from Republicans in Washington - but would also assert Colombia's independence from U.S. drug policy.
Colombian ex-president Cesar Gaviria has been campaigning for drug decriminalization for a while, and participated in the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which also recommended alternatives to prohibitionism. And Pres. Juan Manuel Santos has said that he'd be open to changes on drug policy - if other nations take the lead. He's right. If Colombia did the unthinkable and legalized drugs it could deprive the guerrillas, paramilitaries and cartels of the bulk of their incomes - but would also turn this country into an international pariah.
Colombia has no choice but to wait for Washington to take the lead. But expecting Washington to endorse decriminalization anytime soon is unfortunately reefer madness.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours