Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree Tuesday legalizing and regulating medical marijuana.
The new legislation presents an opportunity to promote scientific research in Colombia, Santos said in a televised address on Tuesday.
“Our goal is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible.” “Allowing the use of marijuana does not go against our international commitments to control drugs or against our policy of fighting drug trafficking,” Santos said.
Santos said the new regulatory framework was long overdue given that Colombians had been consuming marijuana and marijuana-based products in a legal void for years.
Santos’s announcement follows a recent decision to stop aerially spraying the herbicide glyphosate on fields of coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine. The World Health Organization warned in April that the chemical, sold by U.S. biotech company Monsanto under the brand name Roundup, is “probably carcinogenic.”
Growing, distributing and selling cannabis remains illegal. “The manufacture, export, sale, and medical and scientific use of this and other substances have been permitted for several decades in Colombia. However, they were never regulated. That is what we are doing today,” Santos said.
Current law allows possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana or 20 marijuana plants for personal use. A recent study showed 11.5 percent of Colombians have used marijuana at least once.
The Columbian government said some companies, including foreign ones, have shown interest in producing and selling cannabis. There are no plans to fully legalize marijuana for recreational consumption or commercial sale, unlike neighboring Uruguay, which fully legalized cannabis in 2013.
Anyone wishing to grow marijuana in Columbia must now apply to the National Narcotics Council for a license. Colombia, was once home to large marijuana cultivations. Much of the crop was smuggled to the United States before drug cartels began smuggling cocaine into the U.S.
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