Cannabis / Marijuana, EDITORIAL
President Juan Manuel Santos Positions Colombia to Take a Giant Step Forward
By Anthony Wile - November 14, 2015

This week the government of Colombia took a giant step forward in its peace process. How? Well, if you haven't heard yet, Colombia announced it had formalized a legal framework to regulate the research and development, legal cultivation, processing and exportation of cannabis for scientific and medical purposes.

And while this may have come as a shock to many, to us it was an anticipated and welcomed accomplishment. We applaud the Colombian government for courageously taking a leadership position in advance of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs scheduled to take place in New York this coming April.

UNGASS 2016 is expected to usher in sweeping reforms to the prevailing international drug policy. As the world's regulatory agency, the UN (together with the World Health Organization) will inevitably enact rules specific to cannabis that will facilitate a market that is rigorously regulated, environmentally friendly and constrained to highly standardized medicinal-grade products.

In fact, UNGASS 2016 was supposed to be held in 2019 but the date was fast-forwarded due to intense pressure from within the 193 member-state body. There are two key drivers speeding up the global "change" as it relates to how we deal with the drug issue and the disastrously failed thinking behind the prohibitionist war on drugs.

The first was a request to the UN by the presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico to focus its next special session on drugs on policy reform, rather than another progress review and the continuation of a failed drug policy. A formal proposal to do so – sponsored by Mexico and co-sponsored by 95 other countries – was approved.

Secondly, that urgency was boldly reinforced in 2014 when a public event live-streamed around the world made an unequivocal statement that global drug policy simply must change. The Global Commission on Drug Policy publicly called for "an end to the criminalization of drug use and possession and responsible legal regulation of psychoactive substances." Members of the commission included the former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and business mogul Richard Branson. Even top US officials George Shultz and Paul Volcker added their voices in support of global reform.

As a result, the next UNGASS on Drugs will convene in April 2016. The significance of UNGASS 2016 cannot be overstated. This special session will bring together the UN's General Assembly, which is the principal policy-making organ of the UN and the only one in which all 193 UN member states have equal representation, to focus specifically on drug policy reform.

The impetus of worldwide coordinated change will be a UN-codified global regulatory policy for legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis that shifts from warring against illegal suppliers to regulating and standardizing suppliers and attacking demand through education and compassionate treatment programs for addicts.

Fearing proponents within UN agencies may be forced to reverse their position because of pressure from particular nations, on October 19th Richard Branson publicly leaked a UNODC briefing paper intended for delivery at an upcoming UNGASS preparatory session. Entitled "Decriminalisation of Drug Use and Possession for Personal Consumption," the paper was prepared "to inform country responses to promote a health and human rights-based approach to drug policy." The paper "explains that decriminalising drug use and possession for personal consumption is consistent with international drug control conventions and may be required to meet obligations under international human rights law."

Heads of state, led by those of Latin American nations – most notably Colombia – have pushed the UN to rewrite international drug policy and thus bring to an end the war on drugs. These leaders cite the heavy toll existing policies have taken on society: Scientists bemoan the hindrance to life science and medical research, untold numbers of people have been killed, entire economies have been decimated and millions of lives have been destroyed through incarceration for victimless drug possession charges.

No nation on Earth has seen its soil and society scorched more than Colombia, which has been at the epicenter of the global war on drugs. An estimated 450,000 Colombians have been killed, and family and social structures were decimated as 2.5 to 4 million people were displaced. And the country has suffered immense reputational damage due to the illegal activities of a minority of its population of nearly 50 million.

It's simply indisputable that more than any other nation, Colombia and its citizenry deserve the opportunity to show leadership in this worldwide industry and to reap the inherent associated financial and societal benefits. It will be a securely structured and extremely tightly regulated industry, as the new decree sets forth.

Having lived and worked in Colombia for much of the last 13 years I have developed a deep connection to the country and its people. It is a beautiful, diverse land that has been held back for decades by reins of fear funded by illicit activity. And now, free from the shackles of the black market, one can only imagine the tremendous rejuvenation of hope and prosperity this will ignite. I applaud this move by President Juan Manuel Santos and his ministers of agriculture, health and justice.

Colombia's equatorial location and environmentally friendly growing conditions make it the obvious country to profit from such a rapidly whitening global cannabis industry – in many ways:

  • Increased security for all citizens by extinguishing black market funding of illegal and violent organizations by providing a viable means of crop substitution, especially for coca production
  • Significant tax revenues that can help fund the country's vast infrastructure programs, thus benefiting Colombian industry and by extension bringing long-term benefits to all citizens
  • Diversion of government expenditures previously utilized to fight the war on drugs that can now be better spent on anti-drug education and a public-health centered approach to treating those struggling with drug addiction
  • Sustainable long-term employment that could generate tens of thousands of new jobs in all aspects of the product lifecycle – cultivation, oil extracts processing and research and development
  • Spinoff economic benefits for many peripheral industries
  • Regulated access for its citizenry who may benefit from medicinal cannabis, ensuring the quality of products being ingested meets the highest quality assurance standards
  • Enhanced international reputations for many of its universities that will undoubtedly see a large influx of foreign capital to fund a plethora of scientific and medical research, again creating job opportunities
  • Rehabilitated international reputation for the country

Today, President Juan Santos is only two or three days away from issuing this monumental decree that positions Colombia to demonstrate a mature, environmentally conscious leadership approach to regulating and standardizing one of the very same plants that has been at the root of so much agony and international reputation damage.

As Mr. Santos has proved once again, he has the courage it takes to make bold and tough policy decisions. His remarkable achievement in Havana towards establishing lasting peace with FARC has many suggesting he deserves to earn the Nobel Peace Prize.

Perhaps Mr. Santos will be the first sitting president to earn not one but two Nobel Prizes by intelligently positioning his country to take a leadership position in shaping global drug policy and helping to usher in mature policy that stops the flow of capital to subversive and societally destructive factions by turning the very plant responsible for funding so much chaos into a force for good, for his country and the world.

The time has come for Colombia to show the world its innovative capabilities in a completely different light – one that illuminates a new future and darkens the past.

In closing, the lyrics from "Odio por Amor," written and recorded by my friend Juanes – a Colombian multiple Grammy Award-winning international superstar – seem apropos here:

It's time to change

es tiempo de cambiar

it's time to change

el odio por amor

it's time to change

es tiempo de cambiar

en la mente de todos

el odio por amor.

it's time to change…

Posted in Cannabis / Marijuana, EDITORIAL
  • Jim Johnson

    Thank you all at DB. You said last year that Colombia was a country to watch, if for no other reason than where to invest. Pickings are getting slim and solid honest sources even rarer.

    • WoodsWoman

      You’re right, Jim. DB’s been talking about Colombia for some time now and I for one have been reading all of it with great interest. Wile’s point that Colombia has been at the epicenter of the drug war and endured horrendous destruction of its society as a result is an important one. As long as I can remember, the US media has been quick to blame the Colombian people themselves. But really, so much of this has been brought on as a result of the US-led ridiculous eradication policies – not because “the people” are somehow flawed (the opposite of what I’ve found with Colombian people in general). The country’s leadership has gradually told the US “no” to specific policies (spraying crops with poison, for instance) and this latest action shows remarkable courage, indeed. We can only hope the rest of the world follows suit and tells the US no, on this and a few other insane policies, too! Bravo, Santos et al!!

      • Jim Johnson

        Amen, Brother. These people have been through hell. Against all expectation, it is a huge boost to hear they decide to rebuild greater and grander than ever before. Gangs now see the ultimate outcomes of their endeavors, as do politicians and crony economists. It is a new kind of Adult now entering the room, and I will extol all examples wherever I find them. Maybe, just maybe, we are on the cusp of a new awakening.

        • Jeff Robinson

          Amen to that!

    • Yes this is an implication of the article. You “get it.”

  • TG Molitor

    Anthony: How would you compare and contrast Colombia and Panama in terms of economic liberty, social freedom, and investment/living opportunities?

    • Panama to some degree is the 51st state of the Union. Begin with that and recall that Colombia is a sovereign nation, and you will begin to see the obvious differences. Mr. Wile will be addressing the issue in an upcoming editorial, perhaps not specifically comparing the two nations but laying out his reasons for believing Colombia is truly the new frontier for many things – including living opportunities.

  • pcnot

    While I applaud the thrust of this article, it is sad that the UN is the arbiter of Colombia’s decision. To my humble way of thinking, the UN is one of the world’s worst inventions and should be disbanded. National rights have gone the same way as states’ rights here in the U. S. Multi-nationals are slobbering in anticipation of the revenue stream being created.

    • Colombia is many things, but it is not a “plaything” of the UN.

  • Jeff Robinson

    Congratulations to Colombia. I wish them all the best in the future. It is an amazing country and I have been there many times. It is high time this ridiculous war on drugs is over.

  • Don Duncan

    I spent about 6 months in Colombia, off and on, ’78-’80. I enjoyed the fruit the US doesn’t import. These plant products are wealth unexploited, as well as all the other drugs/fibers that would benefit humanity. My point is simple: plants are essential to animal life, and none are dangerous or evil, or need to be eradicated. It follows that none need to be regulated, controlled, criminalized. All plant life is our friend. Plants have been blamed for the political mistakes institutionalized violence produces, e.g., the “war on drugs”, which is a war on choice, on rights, on freedom.

    I see no acknowledgment of this fact in the legalization of a particular right of choice. No permission is needed from anyone to exercise rights. No “extremely tightly regulated industry” is needed to protect us from ourselves, unless a “collective good” can come from the repression of individual choice. That belief, while the basis of the worldwide social violence inflicted on everyone by their self enslavement, is unsupported by the results. Individuals acting within their rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness is the fountainhead of all progress.

    These new laws that “allow” us to do what we have the right to do anyway, imply the opposite. An apology, a formal confession that the prosecution of some was wrong, would be a step in the right direction. This should be followed by deregulation, decriminalization, and an admission that authority has limits imposed by rights.

    • Of course we agree with many of your points. Regarding the idealistic scenario you paint, while one we endorse, it is not how things are in reality today. Perhaps as time passes these steps forward will eventually yield to a more “individualiy responsible” society.

      • Don Duncan

        The worldwide political reality will only “yield” with a grass roots movement that demands less government. And that will only happen when minds are awakened to the reality that govt. is not the solution; it is the problem. That is why I point out the full implications of authoritarian proclamations. I want everyone to understand how the continuous control mechanism maintains its grip on society, while pretending to be progressive. Legalization and criminalization are two sides of the same coin. Both imply the right to violate rights. That I will continue to point out, lest it be overlooked by the new permission to self medicate.

  • Praetor

    Well, if you take a close look at the CIA’s involvement in Colombia, you will see their problem. It seem Kennedy had a two fold purpose for the Peace corps. the stated purpose as disseminated by the propaganda ministry and the unstated purpose of infiltration by the mafia. The Peace corps volunteers, went on down to Colombia and decided to become drug dealers for the mob, how interesting. The puzzle pieces of funding the war on leftist commies, not only in Colombia but throughout the world. The CIA’s cold war, against the Soviet’s was mainly fund by the war on drugs. CIA, Mafia and the Peace corps, good scam for as long as you can get away with it. Infiltrate small agrarian countries with peaceful intentions by peaceable volunteers and then wage war funded by drugs, handed over to the underworld thugs, to garner money to wage war against the commies and then have the politicos through the propaganda ministry proclaim drugs are destroying the civil society of the U.S. and a new war must be waged and in the end who’s getting the money. Take a guess. If you want to stop criminality of the underworld thugs (CIA) of the black market, prohibition of anything must be prohibited, prohibition is corruption, and the power of fiat is at its core. Maybe Colombia is breaking free, maybe!!!

  • AngelicaVelez

    I’m a Colombian and I live in Medellín. This is in fact a decision that I applaud, with all the enthusiasm and joy that I have for being a Colombian. I think we have had a lot of violence in our country, I think that drugs are a huge part of the violence that we have seen. Growing up in a country like Colombia makes you feel like violence is normal, which it is NOT. And this is one of the first baby steps that the country is making to end these unhealthy years of violence. I have seen what medicinal cannabis can do for pain and I’m amazed in how it has not been legalised sooner or just used like medicine. My aunt, for example, is now using cannabis oil extracts to relieve pain of her arthritis. She lives in Holland, so this kind of medicine is very easy to get, and she tells me the difference between cannabis and regular-chemical drugs is huge. When she used chemical drugs she always felt tired and began to have trouble with her liver and now that she uses cannabis is a whole different thing. She has energy and suffers no longer with troubles with her liver. It’s time to change!!! I’m very glad to witness this change.

  • LawrenceNeal

    Vive Colombia!

  • Cris Gomez

    As a Colombian, I am very excited to learn about the legalization of cannabis for scientific and medical purposes, we have been waiting for this for a long time. The illegal drug business has been the main source for violence in our country since this activity finances many outlaw/terrorist groups. If we are able to end this illegal business and transform it into a regulated and structured industry, this will not only help our country in its search for peace but also will provide a lot of opportunities for the local economy. This is a win-win situation for the peace process that we are currently going through and for the economy of this nation that has a very fertile and beautiful land. In addition, we have to add all the benefits that this will bring for medical purposes. For news like this one, I am very optimistic about the future of my country.

  • Marcelo Siqueira

    Anthony, great editorial!
    It is so refreshing someone putting in perspective what the war on drugs has meant for Colombia, the collateral damage that it has caused and its profound damage to the Colombian society. This has in fact been a courageous action by president Santos, who clearly understands that it is time to move from the motto “the plant that kills” to “the plant that cures”. The effect of cannabinoids on the human endocannabinoid system is just beginning to be undestood. So much medical research will be done in this field in the coming years and it would be wonderful to be able to see Colombian institutions being on the cutting edge of this new medical field.

    • Praetor

      You be right. A lot of people would thing, that you saying endocannabiniod system or ECS, you would be talking about weed. ‘Most’ people do not even know that there is a brain function actually called endo-cannabi-niod, receptors, they have know idea. This would lead one to think a plant named cannabis just may have some positive effects on the human condition, say the immune system or stress, cirrhosis, liver disease, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, the auto immune conditions. I would say there is a connection between cannabis and the endocannabiniod system of the brain, and the country that does serious research into this connection will be doing the world a favor and become quite wealthy. The world has been lied too about cannabis!!!

  • Robert Connell

    It is fantastic to see such forward-thinking actions coming out of Colombia thanks to President Santos. The war on drugs has cost so much in both lives and treasure to prosecute victimless “crimes”, and has given black market forces far too much power. It will be nice to see some reversals, and to see these products put towards a beneficial use.

  • PauloPortugal

    Looking a few years from now into the future, one can easily see the leading role Colombia and it’s citizens will play, not only in the it’s drug politics, but also in personal responsibility and bringing real freedom to it’s people. The country will turn it’s worst nightmare into one of the most important foundations to rebuild a prosperous environment. Santos is a strong hand at the right moment, let’s hope he keeps following this path.

  • Coyote44

    Hurray ,Hurray ,Finally-A world leader having the courage to lead the world out of the Dark Ages ,setting the bar high for the world to follow–well done President Santos .

  • Peddle Pusher

    A tremendous step forward, and it’s about time. Will be interesting to see how governments around the world reallocate taxpayers funds from medical marijuana taxes back into their city.

  • silversmith

    The UN giveth and the UN taketh away . It’s a globalist organization which you are sanctioning to solve a local problem . A top down socialist method of controlling populations ? I thought you folks were “conservatives” . Time tells all tales .

    • “Sanctioning”? To solve a “local problem”? Please read the article again. 1) The war on drugs is certainly not a local problem, and 2) Colombia’s president and ministers have made decisions they think in the best interest of their countrymen. As for the UN, it is what it is, yes. Welcome to reality. If you perceive our reporting on actions being taken by that body to be “sanctioning,” so be it.

      And by the way, why did you think “us folks” were conservative? Which “folks” is that? False paradigms have been discussed at length in our comments, as well, (as has the illogical thinking expressed by assigning personal characteristics to entities, whether websites or states or agencies )…

  • mountaingirl

    An uplifting article which highlights the courage and determination from a country which has experienced so much pain and suffering at the hands of the drug lords. Time is at hand for Colombia to shine, not only as s a growing economic powerhouse in Latin America but highlighting the benefits of conscientious policy for the greater good.

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