Colombia: pressure grows to expand drug decrim

An official from the capital district government of Bogotá on March 28 called upon Colombia’s national government to open debate on broadening the policy of cannabis decriminalization. "We really need leadership from the Congress and the government to regulate the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana," said secretary general of the Bogotá mayor's office, Susana Muhamad. Despite efforts by the previous president Alvaro Uribe to roll back the policy, since 1994 cannabis has been decriminalized in small quantitites—recently established by the judiciary as up to 22 grams. However, sale and cultivation remain illegal. Muhamad appealed to current President Manuel Santos to examine lifting these limitations.

The comments came following a three-day international summit on decriminalization hosted by the Bogotá administration. Raquel Peyraube, a consultant for the National Drugs Council of Uruguay was among the summit's participants. "Regulation is a peaceful way to change the direction of the war on drugs," Peyraube stated. "Prisons are not places where rehabilitation takes place, but where criminal careers are reinforced."

Days earlier, a National Agrarian Summit was held in Bogotá, convened by peasant organizations from throughout Colombia to discuss the need for land reform. The Agrarian Summit received a statement from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC statement said that Colombia's peasants are the primary victims of the militarized anti-drug policy, and stressed "the need to redefine the guidlines for a new counter-drug policy with a humanized approcah."

The FARC has put cannabis and coca decriminalization and "regulation" measures on the table in its current peace dialogue with the Colombian government in Havana. Its statement in the Agrarian Summit comes in answer to a demand by civil peasant and indigenous organizations for a voice in the dialogue. The Agrarian Summit was called by groups including the National Association of Campesino Reserve Zones (ANZORC), which calls for self-governing peasant autonomous zones, and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).

Bogotá's open-minded city government is currently up for grabs, however. The populist mayor, Gustavo Petro, has been ordered removed by Colombia's Prosecutor General on dubious charges of corruption—a move protested by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. The progressive parties in Petro's coalition, the Green Alliance and Democratic Center, are calling upon President Santos to choose a figure from within their ranks when he picks a replacement for Petro. A decision is expected imminently. (EFE, April 1; Colombia Reports, El Espectador, Prensa Latina, March 28; Prensa Rural, March 17)

Cross-post to High Times and Global Ganja Report

  1. Ousted Bogotá mayor reinstated

    The Bogotá Superior Tribunal on April 22 ordered Colombia's President Santos to restore Gustavo Petro as mayor of the capital. The court found that Petro had been wrongly removed, and the president should have heeded the March 18 ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that said that Petro's rights had been violated. Santos complied with the coutr's ruling the following day. "Today, triumphant and happy citizens…accompany us," Petro said as he led a crowd of supporters toward the mayor's office. "There is an indignant demand for democracy now." (AP, BBC News, La Republica, Bogotá, April 23)