Friday, November 18, 2011

Minimum Dose, Maximum Controversy

Young, one-time drug addicts say legalizing drugs promotes abuse. 
The other day, Pres. Santos said he'd be open to decriminalizing marijuana and cocaine. That suggests a return to the old 'minimum dosage' law, which permitted the possession - but not sale - of limited amounts of drugs, as a 'right of personality.'

Ex-President Alvaro Uribe, who pushed Congress to eliminate the minimum dosage, criticized Santos' comments on his Twitter account, arguing that bringing back the minimum dose would cause more crime. "Without legalization, the drug sellers are at the entrances to high schools and universities," says a message which Uribe retweeted. "Can you imagine how it would be with legalization."

Walking without drugs. 
Perhaps the Tweeter's sentiment is correct. But the Tweeter also observes that the drug dealers are already there, when the stuff is illegal. If it were decriminalized, but only for adults, then they might stick to other spots where they'd run no risk of arrest. Or, maybe it'd just make their work easier.

(To his credit, Uribe appears to support medical treatment rather than prison for addicts.)

In one sense, Uribe is right. When drug possession was permitted, drug dealers hid behind the law by keeping only that quantity in their possession. And that increased access to drugs, causing some kids to become addicts. But, for the many Colombians who consume drugs recreationally and manageably - the way many people can consume tobacco and alcohol - drug prohibition turns healthy people into criminals.

But recently the Supreme Court supported the minimum dose right, saying that the penalties for drug possession were disproportionately harsher than the harm from drug use. Congress is also debating depenalizing the minimum dose.

Across the globe, marijuana is being decriminalized, and Colombia appears increasingly lonely in its insistence on prohibiting this popular and non-addictive drug. Today, Colombia's president and interior minister visited London, where Interior Min. German Vargas Lleras repeated Colombia's call for consuming nations to take on part of the responsibility in the drug war. But he also expressed openness to considering legalization - particularly if it is a common effort amongst nations. "Countries have the right to test new solutions, depending on how the problem expresses itself in their territory," Vargas Lleras said. "It should be understood that in Colombia drugs place in peril not only the health, but also the security security and the life of the people."

Yes, but so does the War on Drugs, by funneling huge amounts of money to Colombia's outlaw armed groups.

Today's El Tiempo carried a story about Colombia's coca leaf erradication numbers trending downward. With leftist leaders in power in the two other cocaine-producing nations, Peru and Bolivia, the drug war appears further than ever from victory.

Pres. Santos' visit to London has reopened discussion here about reforming drug laws.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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