Saturday, August 16, 2014

Shortcut to Legalization?

Soon to stock marijuana? A drugstore on Plaza San Victorino.
Pres. Santos' endorsement of medical marijuana is a step forward - but a tiny one - reducing the harm from Colombia's drug economy.

Along with reducing suffering, Santos cited weakening the criminal enterprises which traffic drugs as a reason for legalizing marijuana for therapeutic uses. That's absurd, since only a tiny fraction of a fraction of Colombia's pot smokers use the drug for medical reasons. And, since whatever legal drug scheme is likely to be complex and cumbersome, a lot of those people will likely continue buying their pot on the black market.

(Photo: California Finest)
But this is a step forward in recognizing that cannabis is not some evil, beyond-the-pale thing. (And is in line with long-time worldwide legal medical uses of cocaine and heroin.) And it brings Colombia a bit closer to the sort of regulated marijuana market being introduced in Uruguay and the U. S. states of Colorado and Washington. Certainly, it jives with Santos' repeated statements that prohibitionism should be reconsidered.
Is that right?

And perhaps Colombia will find a California-style shortcut to legal cannabis use. After all, in the Golden State - which just happens to be a huge marijuana grower - medical marijuana has morphed into de facto marijuana legalization. All you have to do is find one of the many amenable doctors eager to prescribe marijuana for such conditions as headaches, insomnia or sore knees. Let's hope so.

Santos endorsed a medical marijuana bill introduced into Congress by Sen. Juan Manuel Galan, who father Luis Carlos Galán was assassinated on orders of drug lord Pablo Escobar. How would Colombia administer this? Designating companies to grow and process marijuana? Or would the government farm the stuff, as Uruguay is doing? Would pot be sold in pharmacies?

And how would Colombia handle the inevitable downside? After all, marijuana certainly has medical benefits, but smoking a lot of it can do bad things to people, particularly to young people. Can the state send that message while at the same time offering pot as medicinal?
Medicine, man? (Photo: Wikipedia)

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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