Colombia Reviewing Bill To Legalise Massive Cocaine Industry
Colombia is considering a bill that would see the legalisation of its notorious cocaine industry.
The South American country’s relationship with the drug is well documented, most famously tied to Pablo Escobar. However, new legislation could see the state become responsible for distributing cocaine, if it’s approved.
The bill first emerged earlier this year, authored by Senators Iván Marulanda and Feliciano Valencia. They argue that Colombia taking control of the industry would ease the strain on public funds due to illegal trafficking, as well as helping to promote a healthier public attitude towards drug consumption.
In a recent interview with VICE, Marulanda spoke about the bill and the logistics of how it would be implemented across the country. ‘It proposes that the state buy the entirety of Colombia’s coca harvest,’ he said.
The senator explained how the state would purchase coca at market price from the 200,000 farmer families tied to the plant, bringing them into a legal sphere rather than operating away from the authorities and often damaging the environment – it’s estimated that coca farmers are responsible for 75,000 hectares of deforestation.
Considering ‘programs for coca eradication’ cost around $1 billion every year, the move to buy the whole harvest once a year is far cheaper at $680 million. ‘It costs less to buy the harvest than destroy it,’ he said.
There’s a strong fiscal margin and they could push up the price if they need to. And if you need more, you’d have to feed the program with more public spending. But the important thing here is to save lives.
The thing is, we have to recover control over the state. We’re losing control of the state to corruption, narcos in politics. They’re in municipalities, in departments and in congress. All the way to the highest echelons of government.
The spare leaves would be used to develop industries otherwise ignored due to the stigmatised, persecuted nature of the raw material.
From here, the state would supply cocaine to users and research groups looking to study its use for painkillers, rather than recreational ‘party drug’ use.
In Colombia, the personal consumption of cocaine is legal. It’s legal because of a court ruling that recognises personal consumption as a human right… however, what we don’t have is the legal cocaine to meet that demand.
Instead, we have consumers who are in contact with organized crime groups who supply them cocaine in local drug markets. It’s poor quality cocaine and it’s often mixed with unregulated substances. It’s everywhere: in our schools, in universities, in parks and bars. It’s in all these public spaces.
The senator added that the country’s ‘military and police-driven drug policy’ has only become ‘more entrenched, more stubborn and more severe in its application… we’re now in the year 2020. Yet Colombia exports 90% of the cocaine in the world today… we’ve lost sovereignty over Colombian territory to the dominion of organised criminal mafias.’
While he’s aware the bill is a long shot, particularly due to the political power of the war on drugs, Marulanda hopes it’ll at least enter the conversation come election time in 2022.
He said, ‘The first big obstacle is to open up the conversation among public opinion. This has been a giant taboo. Colombians are born and raised under this assumption that drug-trafficking is a war. There’s no information about coca and cocaine. So, with this bill we hope to open the conversation.’
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