Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday gave a clue to his vision for a potential return to the Oval Office, saying in a Washington, D.C. speech that the nation needs to get tough on crime and sentence drug dealers to the death penalty. Speaking before the conservative nonprofit the America First Policy Institute, Trump said that drug traffickers should face execution after a “very quick trial.”
“The penalties should be very, very severe,” Trump said during his speech on Tuesday, as quoted by The Hill. “If you look at countries throughout the world, the ones that don’t have a drug problem are ones that institute a very quick trial death penalty sentence for drug dealers.”
Trump added that the United States would not face the problems associated with illicit drugs if authorities were tougher on crime. He praised other countries that have quick trials for suspected drug dealers.
“It’s terrible to say, but you take a look at every country in this world that doesn’t have a problem with drugs, they have a very strong death penalty for people that sell drugs,” he said.
“It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But you know what? That’s the ones that don’t have any problem. It doesn’t take 15 years in court. It goes quickly, and you absolutely — you execute a drug dealer, and you’ll save 500 lives,” the former president continued.
At one point in his address, Trump applauded the way Chinese President Xi Jinping handled drug traffickers, recalling a time when Xi told him about “quick trials” for drug criminals in China that he estimated sentenced people in “two hours.”
Trump’s appearance at the America First Policy Institute’s two-day summit marked the first time the former president has spoken publicly in Washington, D.C. since he left office in January 2021. His remarks on harsh punishment for drug dealers came in a speech calling for the nation to get tough on crime and support law enforcement agencies and their officers.
Former President Calls for American Police State
Trump said that the country is becoming unsafe for its citizens, highlighting instances of attacks on everyday Americans in cities including Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia that have been extensively reported by conservative media.
“The dangerously deranged roam our streets with impunity. We are living in such a different country for one primary reason: There is no longer respect for the law and there certainly is no order. Our country is now a cesspool of crime,” said Trump, only 18 months after leaving office at the end of his first term.
Trump advocated for what would be a huge increase in police officers across the country, saying that there should be a police car on every corner. He called for a “no-holds-barred national campaign to dismantle gangs and organized street crime in America.” The former president also called for efforts to defeat violence “and be tough and be nasty and be mean if we have to.”
“We’re living in such a different country for one primary reason: There is no longer respect for the law, and there certainly is no order. Our country is now a cesspool of crime,” Trump said.
“We are a failing nation,” he added, only 18 months after leaving office.
Trump also said that encampments of unsheltered people in cities should be relocated to “large parcels of inexpensive land at the outer reaches of the city.” The former president added that such camps should also have tents staffed with healthcare professionals including medical doctors and psychologists.
To fight back against crime, Trump argued that the president should ignore state authority by deploying the National Guard and “go beyond the governor,” completely ignoring the Republican Party’s often repeated support for states’ rights.
“When governors refuse to protect their people, we need to bring in what is necessary anyway,” Trump said, adding that “the next president needs to send the National Guard to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago until safety can be restored.”
Trump has a history of supporting draconian tactics to deal with drug traffickers and other criminals. In 2017, he called then-President Rodrigo Duterte of the Phillipines to praise him for his crackdown on drug dealers that led to the killing of an estimated 12,000 people at the hands of police and vigilantes.
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump reportedly said, referring to the country’s rash of extrajudicial deaths. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”
NBA forward Montrezl Harrell is facing felony drug charges after police discovered three pounds of weed during a traffic stop in Kentucky last month. Harrell, who plays for the Charlotte Hornets, was scheduled to appear in court to answer the charges filed in Madison County, Kentucky on Monday but the arraignment hearing has been delayed until next month, court records show.
According to a police report cited by the Charlotte Observer, Harrell was driving a rented 2020 Honda Pilot southbound on I-75 on the morning of May 12 when he was pulled over by a Kentucky state trooper for following too closely behind the vehicle in front of him. In the report, Trooper Jesse Owens wrote that after stopping Harrell’s vehicle, he “observed” the odor of marijuana. The citation also notes that Harrell “admitted to being in possession of marijuana and produced a small amount from his sweatpants.” Law enforcement officers then searched the vehicle Harrell was driving. During the search, the trooper discovered “three pounds of marijuana in vacuum sealed bags” in a backpack that was found on the back seat of the vehicle, according to the traffic citation.
Harrell has been charged with trafficking less than five pounds of marijuana. Under Kentucky state law, possession of more than eight ounces but less than five pounds of marijuana is classified as a Class D felony for the first offense. Those convicted of the charge are subject to a sentence of one to five years behind bars and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
The Charlotte Hornets have declined to comment on Harrell’s case, according to multiple media reports.
8-Year NBA Career
Harrell, a North Carolina native, is in his eighth season with the NBA. He played NCAA Division 1 college basketball in Kentucky for the University of Louisville Cardinals, where he averaged 11.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game. As a freshman, he played on the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship team, although the title was later taken away by the league for NCAA violations.
In June 2015, Harrell was chosen by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the NBA draft, the 32nd pick overall. On September 19, 2015, he signed a three-year contract with the Rockets and made his NBA debut with the team in the season’s opening game against the Denver Nuggets on October 28, scoring eight points and pulling down three rebounds. Harrell made his first career start with the NBA on November 13, playing 13 minutes of game time and sinking five points in the Rockets’ defeat of the Denver Nuggets. During his rookie season, he was assigned to the Rockets D-league affiliate the Rio Valley Grande Vipers several times.
In June 2017, the Los Angeles Clippers traded Chris Paul to the Rockets, acquiring Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Lou Williams, Kyle Wiltjer and a 2018 Houston first-round draft pick in the deal. In September 2020, Harrell was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, an award given by the league for the season’s best bench player. That season, the Clippers went to the playoffs, losing in seven games against the Denver Nuggets. Harrell averaged 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in the playoffs that saw the Nuggets advance after starting the series down three games to one.
Harrell signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on November 22, 2020, making his debut with the team one month later and logging 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists against his former team and Lakers’ crosstown rival the Clippers. In August 2021, Harrell was traded to the Washington Wizards as part of a deal for Russell Westbrook. In February of this year, he was traded to the Charlotte Hornets, scoring 15 points and six rebounds in his team debut on February 11. Harrell is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent when the NBA’s new league year begins in July.
Every country has its own drug laws, which make it confusing that there are also global drug laws. Sometimes its hard to tell if these global laws really hold any value. There are three international drug treaties, but what do they really mean to the countries of the world?
International drug treaties exist to govern drug laws, but how relevant are they, and do we really have to care? We’re an independent news publication focusing on the emerging cannabis industry. Keep up by subscribing to The THC Weekly Newsletter, and also gain access to deals on products like edibles, vapes, and tons of other cannabis paraphernalia, as well as cannabinoid compounds. Please keep in mind, *cannabinoid products are not everyone’s first choice, and we only promote people to buy products they are comfortable with using!
That’s a great question, and until I started writing in this field, I couldn’t have given an answer. That makes me guess that the average person isn’t going to know what they are, and rightly so. It’s hard enough keeping up with local drug laws, and federal drug laws, in nearly any country. The idea of global ones is just another layer of confusion.
Basically, a treaty is nothing more than an agreement, though the term is often used in war time conflicts to denote an arrangement between sides. The word is also used to define agreements for things like land. When used for drugs, international drug treaties indeed makes it sound like we are literally fighting a war with drugs.
International drug treaties are agreements signed off on by multiple countries about the overall legality of substances. Especially when in international areas (like international waters), or when dealing with trafficking between countries, theses come into play, as the treaties become the primary way to govern drugs in such occurrences. Apart from that, it really does become questionable how useful these international drug treaties are, considering individual country laws.
Drug treaties are designed and carried out by the UN. The International Narcotics Control Board is jointly tasked with overseeing the implication of UN drug treaties, in tandem with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, UNODC (which is on behalf of the Secretary-General), and the WHO.
Major international drug treaties
The two most well-known international drug treaties (among the people who would know them at all) are the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which was finalized in 1961, and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which was finalized in 1971. Both treaties involve the same basic scheduling technique that many countries, including the US, use.
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was originally signed on March, 30th, 1961, and was eventually signed by 186 ‘parties’ by 2018. It covers drugs like heroin, cannabis, and cocaine. Incidentally, the definition for cannabis that exists now in that Convention, was molded by India, as an agreement that allowed the country to keep its bhang cannabis drink, but which greatly limited its hemp exports. This is one indication that these Conventions were political in nature, and not necessarily for the benefit of populations.
The other well-known convention came about 10 years later. The Convention on Psychotropic Substances was originally signed on February 21st, 1971 and was signed off on by 184 ‘parties’ by 2018. It came later and works to fill in gaps left by the first convention, covering drugs like LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelic compounds. According to this treaty, THC is a schedule I substance, along with pretty much all psychedelic compounds. Psychedelic plants, however, are not scheduled entities, though their active components often are.
Lesser-known international drug treaty
There is yet another international drug treaty besides these first two, called the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988. This treaty involves added legalities for the enforcement of the first two treaties, and as of June 2020, 191 countries are signed on. This includes 186 out of 193 UN member countries.
The Convention went live in November 1990, and is meant as a way to combat the growing drug-trafficking industries that arose out of the 70s and 80s illicit drug trades, namely for cannabis, heroin, and cocaine. The treaty focuses very strongly on fighting organized crime, partly by creating a mandate for the tracing and seizing of drug-related assets.
The treaty also covers things like extradition, especially for countries without standing extradition policies. It even requires ‘parties’ to help each other out with legal assistance. The treaty works to protect pharmaceutical and chemical companies, by adding a clause to article 12 regarding a requirement for the International Narcotics Control Board to consider the “extent, importance and diversity of the licit use of the substance, and the possibility and ease of using alternate substances both for licit purposes and for the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.”
Drug scheduling for these international drug treaties is done similarly to the US, with groupings for Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, and Schedule IV. For the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Schedule I and Schedule IV denote the most dangerous of drugs, with the highest ability for addiction and lowest ability for medical use and safety, while in between are different designations meant to limit, but not necessarily stop use, depending on the compound. For the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, there is deescalation from Schedule I to Schedule IV in terms of danger.
The precise definitions of the scheduling requirements for the Single Convention (first grouping) and Convention on Psychotropic Substances (second grouping) are as follows:
I – Consists of the most addictive drugs which have a high risk for abuse (contains cannabis and heroine).
II – Consists of medical substances with a lower risk for abuse.
III – Consists of preparations made from Schedule II substances and cocaine.
IV – Consists of the most dangerous Schedule I drugs, which are considered extremely harmful and with absolutely no useful medical or therapeutic value. (Cannabis is here as well).
I – Contains substances that pose a major threat to public health, have a high risk of abuse, and have no real therapeutic value. This group includes THC, but not the rest of the cannabis plant.
II – Contains substances that pose a major threat to public health, have a risk of abuse, and have a low to moderate therapeutic value.
III – Contains substances that pose a major threat to public health, have a risk of abuse, and have a moderate to high therapeutic value.
IV – Contains substances that pose a minor threat to public health, have a risk of abuse, and have a high therapeutic value.
Does it mean anything?
As a writer in this industry, I’m a little stumped as to the value of these treaties. Apart from international areas, and how to deal with issues between countries, they don’t seem to hold much value for individual country law. For one thing, something with global legality, doesn’t mean it actually has to be legal everywhere. And something illegal globally, can be found legal in a specific country.
Take CBD, for example. The UN recently reclassified that part of the cannabis plant only. Technically, it was never mentioned by itself, and when the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was formalized, it never made it in by name, being classified, instead, with the rest of the plant. After much arguing and debating, the UN did nothing to reclassify the rest of cannabis in any way, but it did make CBD open globally for medical use by removing it from Schedule IV.
However, this doesn’t mean that any country has to allow the use of CBD, and some, like Iran, still rule out the cannabis plant entirely. This would technically go against the Single Convention, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.
Likewise, when Uruguay, Canada, Georgia, the legal US states, and Mexico made their legalizations, they did so while cannabis remained in Schedule I & IV of the Single Convention, and THC in Schedule I of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, meaning all these countries are breaking with international drug treaties that they signed. Yet it doesn’t seem to matter.
So if countries can legalize drugs that are Schedule I in international drug treaties, and keep drugs illegal that the treaties say should be legal, what purpose do they really serve? They seem like an old-school way to gain control by the UN, but the lack of follow-through indicates an incredible fear of losing power. Think of the EU losing the UK, and then working hard not to lose more countries. The UN only has power if the world follows along, and so maybe these treaties are meaningless if enforcing them means losing countries from the UN.
International drug treaties do exist, but they seem to be ceremonial law at best, at least when it comes to dictating the drug laws of the individual countries of the world. Maybe they do have a value in international water, and with major trafficking issues, but otherwise, it’s a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that there’s no real way to enforce. And let’s be honest…do we really need the UN dictating to every country what drugs they should be cool with?
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In a strange twist of fate, the country that is known as the biggest supplier of drugs to America, also seems to be receiving its fair share, from America. With legalized cannabis already a set up industry in many states, and with the US producing generally higher grade than its compatriots below the border, legal US weed has started flowing into Mexico. Even as its own market waits for regulations to be set in order to begin, Mexico is already embracing what such a market can produce.
How crazy is it that after all these years, US weed is flowing into Mexico? That’s because some of the best cannabis products are produced in legalized states. In fact, the US has some of the best product options available, including compounds like delta-8 THC. Unlike delta-9, delta-8 won’t cause as much anxiety or cloudy head, and leaves the user with more energy and less couch locking, making it preferable for many people. Haven’t tried it? Take a look at our delta-8 THC deals, along with tons of other compounds, such as Delta 9 THC, Delta 10, THCP, THCV, HHC and even THC-O, and see why the US is #1 for cannabis.
Mexican drug trafficking
Let’s be honest, the majority of drug trafficking between Mexico and the US has gone in one direction, north. From cannabis, to cocaine, to meth, to fentanyl. In fact, during the strictest parts of prohibition, when cannabis was 100% illegal in most places, Mexico was key in making sure that prospective smokers could find a product.
These days, Mexican cartels are known for buying raw materials from China for the manufacture of methamphetamine and fentanyl, among others, which are processed in Mexico, before being shipped up to America. And Mexico has been a main passing point for getting cocaine into the States for quite some time.
Though shows like Narcos glamorize the whole thing, its hard to get a grasp on just how much money is made by drug cartels, or just how many people have died. Had the US not felt the need to wage such ridiculous wars, a lot more on both sides would still be alive today. The exact death toll numbers don’t exist, however when looking at Colombia, and a claim in Narcos that each kilo of cocaine cost approximately six lives, it was reported as incorrect by former DEA head of intelligence in Colombia, Elizabeth Zili, who stated:
“I really couldn’t give you a number, but it was extremely high. We never totally trusted the statistics we were getting from the [Colombian] government. One never does, no matter where you are.” This isn’t different when dealing with Mexico. In terms of the money that comes in from drug smuggling, this will vary, however its thought that cartels make somewhere between $19-29 billion each year just from US drug sales.
US weed flowing into Mexico
Having said all that, it becomes an interesting turn of events now that the drugs are flowing in the opposite direction. The standard cannabis of Mexico is of a generally lesser quality, and as of right now there is no organized market apart from the black one. There are, of course, options for better quality weed, but its not easy to find, and not smoked by the standard Mexican, who won’t buy at that price point. Since most won’t smoke higher quality because of the price, there just hasn’t been as big a market for it.
California has the single largest cannabis market in the world, and as a result, the legal weed being sold in California, has been making its way across the border into Mexico. While this might not be geared toward the average Mexican resident, it does provide for a boutique market, enjoyed by the upper echelon of Mexican society, as well as the travelers and expats within the country who are used to a higher level of product quality. In fact, it’s become standard for dealers, and the upper- level menus, to flaunt their ‘importado’ merchandise.
If you’re wondering how US weed is flowing into Mexico so easily, consider that most eyes simply aren’t watching that direction. So, if an American packs a suitcase full of flowers or gummies and walks or drives across the border to Tijuana, there isn’t as much chance of being caught. Since Mexico doesn’t have a market to produce products like gummies, or vapes, such items can sell well in the country with the right crowd, and in fact, the products can double or even triple in value below the border. Not too long ago, a car was stopped, which had 5,600 jars of THC-infused gummies going from the US to Mexico, but this is nearly an isolated incident.
Some of this comes down to our culture of showing off and needing more. It’s seen as a status symbol to afford American products, and to have the better-quality product. Considering Mexico is the kind of country where a lot of drugs are cut, I imagine it’s also a way of letting clients know that the product is real (or supposed to be), and for buyers to know that they’re getting what they expect to get.
According to Josh Bubeck, owner of Urban Leaf, a dispensary in San Ysidro, California, which is right next to the Mexican border, when Mexicans buy American products, “You’re showing ‘This is what I’m about. I’m a bad ass. I got this from America.’” He says about 55% of his customer base are Mexicans who cross the border, since the cannabis is generally better on the northern side. To give an idea just how much the California industry earns, it took in $4.4 billion in 2020, and that number is substantially lower than what had been hoped for and expected.
In a way, by legal cannabis being bought and brought down, it actually bolsters the US legal weed market. I do expect, however, that just as California still has a massive black market that the state can’t seem to divert to its legal one, that a lot of what’s crossing the border is likely illicit, since it would cost less. What does this also mean, though? Logically, we know the cartels aren’t going to give up the business to American producers, so if weed is being trafficked south across the border, it means that cartels are a part of it.
Mexico and cannabis
Mexico is a weird country when it come to cannabis, because it sits in a strange, and ongoing, legal limbo. At the end of 2018, Mexico’s Supreme Court made a 5th consecutive ruling about the ability of adults to recreationally use cannabis. This 5th ruling triggered jurisprudencia, which is when a law is changed due to having five consecutive Supreme Court rulings on the matter. In this case, it was that the prohibition of cannabis is unconstitutional.
This ruling made it impossible for lower courts to go against the Supreme Court, which also means it made it impossible to convict anyone of a lesser cannabis crime (as the Supreme Court ruling in no way made trafficking, or illegal buying/selling okay). As a part of the ruling, the Supreme Court handed down the directive to Congress to get new legislation written so that the laws on the books were not in contrast to the Supreme Court ruling.
The Court gave the government an entire year to do this. But it didn’t. We could have a whole debate as to why, but more, and more, it’s seems like a direct refusal. And in a country practically run by cartels, where politicians are often targeted for making political decisions that go against them, it’s not hard to imagine that the government might literally be afraid to make any formal decisions.
Why do I say this? At the initial due date at the end of 2019, Congress asked for an extension for the legislation. The Supreme Court obliged, and gave the government until April 2020. When April came around, again, an extension was requested, this time with the blame on corona, and a new date in December was given. As the new due date in December 2020 loomed, yet another extension was asked for, and once again, the Supreme Court granted it. That brought us to April 2021, when the government not only didn’t provide the promised legislation, but it also didn’t ask for an extension from the Court.
By the government not fulfilling its duty, and by not requesting an extension, it put the onus back on the Supreme Court to do something. After all, how much power does a Supreme Court really have, if it can’t enforce its own rulings? And what would it mean for the principle of jurisprudencia, if the Court can’t get the other branches of government to follow through?
So, in order to move things along, the Supreme Court officially dropped prohibition laws on June 28th, 2021, making private use and cultivation of cannabis legal for adults (which went into effect July 15th 2021). In an example of why courts don’t usually set laws, the Supreme Court set some wonky requirements, like needing a license for personal cultivation, which likely won’t hold up when laws are finally written.
To be clear, the Court didn’t go further than legalizing those two things. It didn’t set up requirements or regulations for a regulated market, nor did it work out all the kinks associated with what exactly is legal, what isn’t, and how it’ll all be overseen. It simply made Mexico the 4th legalized country, by dropping the prohibition laws. This in an effort to spur along the government to actually do its job, no doubt. As of this writing, at the end of August, 2021, no improvement has been made, nor date given of when something can be expected. Personally, I think lawmakers are waiting to see cartel moves, before making their own.
How will the US deal with legal US weed now flowing into Mexico via traffickers? Hopefully not with a new investment in a drug war, as that only caused more death, while depleting financial resources that could have helped feed and clothe the needy, sent tons of kids to college, and taken care of the medical issues of a large percentage of Americans.
All it really shows is that cartels still rule this roost, they’re not looking to give it up, and they’ll always be a step ahead. I expect that until Mexico gets its own industry running, this will be the new norm. And for those living in Mexico who want a better quality product, maybe this is a good thing.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.
In the last few years, Colombia has been shaping up its legal cannabis policies, legalizing medical cannabis and quickly joining the global medical cannabis market. Now, new legislation climbing its way through Colombian Congress, means that recreational cannabis in Colombia is one step closer to becoming a reality.
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Colombia and drugs in general
Before getting into the specifics of cannabis law in Colombia, and whether recreational cannabis in Colombia will happen, it’s important to understand the situation that Colombia is in with its drug trade.
The first thing to know about Colombia and drugs, of course, is that Colombia is the biggest global hub for cocaine production, and has been for quite some time. It’s estimated that in 2019, approximately 70% of the cocaine consumed in the world, came from Colombia. It’s also estimated that in that year, approximately 18 million people consumed the drug worldwide. Because of the constant infiltration of law enforcement, most of the coca grown in Colombia is grown in more remote areas. Law enforcement, for its part, has been attempting to eradicate fields over the years, by enforcing crop substitutions and even spraying toxic chemicals over fields where coca plants are rumored to be grown. Despite these efforts, its estimated that in 2017, 1,379 tons of cocaine were produced in the country. Efforts of law enforcement to stop the trade cripple the 130,000 families that subsist from farming and selling coca.
To give an idea how much money is made off the cocaine industry, it takes about 125 kilos of coca to produce one kilo of cocaine. This costs a local drug lab about $137.50. Once this is converted into actual cocaine, the value is increased to $2,269. Once it gets to where its going, that same kilo can bring in approximately $60,000 in revenue in a place like the US, or even more in other locations. This is a massive trade in Colombia, and its led to massive amounts of violence.
When looking for the ‘all told’ measure of this violence, it’s extremely difficult to find actual death tolls. While there are a few random and varying numbers out there, none of them are direct or verifiable, and while we are all aware of the tremendous destruction of this trade, no one seems to be able to say how destructive. In fact, when questioned about it in light of the Netflix drama Narcos, and a statement made on the show about one kilo of cocaine costing six lives each, former DEA head of intelligence in Colombia, Elizabeth Zili stated, “I really couldn’t give you a number, but it was extremely high. We never totally trusted the statistics we were getting from the [Colombian] government. One never does, no matter where you are.”
The same BBC article did some math to try to figure out if the six people per one kilo made any sense even in 1992, and found the number to be extremely high, even when looking at total global deaths. It established at that time a Colombian murder rate of approximately 80 per 100,000. Even though the murder rate has been cut in half since that time, Colombia still has one of the higher murder rates with approximately 25 murders for every 100,000 people in 2019. This can be compared to the US where the rate in 2018 was 5 per 100,000.
But the funniest part about all of it? These massive cocaine trafficking networks that have been used over the years, started as pathways for the trafficking of – you guessed it – marijuana. In fact, prior to its foray into cocaine, Colombia was providing the majority of cannabis to the US in the 70’s.
Colombia and cannabis
When it comes to cannabis, much like Uruguay, Colombia has been a bit more lax than other places, but a lot of this has been directly to combat issues of drug violence. In general, cannabis is illegal for commercial sale and use, however, unless a person is committing a major cannabis crime, the punishments aren’t that dire. In 1994, around the time of Pablo Escobar’s death, Colombia decriminalized both the personal use and possession of cannabis and other drugs. This was further expounded on in 2012 when it was established that a person could have up to 20 grams without being prosecuted. It was even expanded on further with a Constitutional Court ruling in 2015 which then allowed personal cultivation of up to 20 plants.
In 2018, this was gone back on when president Ivan Duque put forth a decree saying cops could, in fact, confiscate even small amounts of cannabis, and while this didn’t apply criminal penalties to offenders, it did institute a fine of up to 208,000 pesos. It also put a ban on people being able to carry small amounts of cannabis, something that the Constitutional Court already ruled was okay. Consequently, the following year (2019), the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that parts of Duque’s decree were unconstitutional. This didn’t get rid of the cops being able to search and confiscate drugs, but it did mean no consequences for up to 20 grams as related earlier by the Constitutional Court ruling.
Sale and supply crimes are most certainly illegal, and having more than 20 grams is considered possession with intent to sell. The maximum prison sentence is up to 20 years, surpassing the punishment for a rape.
If it needs to be said, being caught trafficking any drug in Colombia is going to get you in some pretty hot water. Here’s the basic breakdown for what’ll happen to you if you’re dumb enough to transport illegal substances across borders:
10+ kg of cannabis, 2 kg of cocaine, 60 grams poppy-based drugs (like heroin) = 10-30 years in prison.
1000+ kg cannabis, 5kg cocaine, 2 kg poppy-based drugs (like heroin) = 23-30 years in prison.
Medical marijuana and how to get in on it
At the very end of 2015, President Juan Miguel Santos signed legislation for a regulated medical cannabis market. He stated, “This decree allows licenses to be granted for the possession of seeds, cannabis plants and marijuana.” On July 6th, 2016, Colombian Congress approved law 1787 to create a regulatory framework, which was itself enacted in 2017 through Decree 613. While much is written about the investment opportunities that have been opened up through this, the ability to actually obtain cannabis medications for locals seems to be hindered by supply issues, misinformation, and limitations in development and research. The four licenses that can be applied for to enter the legal medical cannabis market are the following:
Manufacture of cannabis derivatives – Allows the production of cannabis-derived products for use and scientific research domestically, and for exportation. Interested parties can check details and pricing here.
Use of cannabis seeds – Allows sale and distribution of cannabis seeds, as well as use for scientific purposes. Check links for details and pricing.
Cultivation of psychoactive cannabis – Allows the cultivation of cannabis as a crop, the production of cannabis derivatives (along with the first license mentioned), use for scientific purposes, storage of cannabis, disposal of cannabis, and production of cannabis seeds. Details for this license can be found here.
Cultivation of non-psychoactive cannabis – Allows the production of cannabis seeds for planting, the manufacture of derivatives, industrial uses, and for scientific purposes, as well as storage and disposal. If interested, check for details here.
So…what’s the deal with recreational?
What should be noticed is that Colombia is not the most stringent country when it comes to cannabis laws, and has been updating at quick speeds to allow for more freedoms. So, what about the final legalization for recreational cannabis? While it’s not quite there yet, it really doesn’t seem to be far off, with legislation already starting to make its way through the channels of government. Here’s what’s going on right now in terms of recreational cannabis in Colombia:
1st initiative for recreational cannabis in Colombia – Approved on September 16th by the first committee of the Lower House by a vote of 18-17, allowing it to move forward in the Lower House. It was, unfortunately, not able to make it past the next debate in the Lower House, and is being shelved for now. This initiative was led by opposition legislator Juan Carlos Lozada, and if it passes (in the future) it would amend Colombian Constitution article 49 which currently states, “the carrying and consumption of narcotic or psychotropic substances is prohibited unless prescribed by a doctor.” The amendment would therefore have lifted this ban and legalized cannabis for recreational use, and would actually be in line with previous rulings of Colombia’s highest court, the Constitutional Court. To become law, the bill faced eight debates, four each at the Lower House and Senate. It did not make it through this time around, but I keep it here to show what has been happening, and what could come up again in the future.
2nd initiative for recreational cannabis in Colombia – This includes 38 lawmakers led by center-right and opposition parties, initiated by two senators, Gustavo Bolivar and Luis Fernando Velasco. This bill aims to regulate the production and consumption of marijuana, in essence creating a legal framework for its recreational use. The initiative does expressly ban marijuana use for minors, its promotion and advertisement, as well as establishing specific sites for adult use. In order to become law, this bill must be approved by the end of next year, but as it is a separate bill and not an amendment to an existing law, it only requires four debates to pass. The first debate had been set for end of October, moved to Mid-November, but doesn’t seem to have happened yet. While governments have been moving slower in light of the Coronoavirus pandemic, the bill is still very much alive. Those pushing this bill point out how Uruguay diverted around 40% of business from cartels, established 500 jobs, and received €100 million in investments by 2018. They have also pointed out how prohibiting consumption has never led consumers to not be able to access the drug.
Uruguay had a similar problem to Colombia, though not nearly as intense. In order to cut down on the black-market trade of cannabis, it legalized it and established a government-run system to regulate it. Colombia has already done a lot to limit drug violence, decriminalizing many drugs in an effort to thwart it, and the cartels that promote it. A recreational legalization would certainly go in line with this, and I expect that if the current bill doesn’t pass, the next one to be introduced will. It might very well be that with Uruguay, Mexico’s impending legalization, and recreational cannabis in Colombia likely following suit soon, south of the border will be the place to go for legal marijuana.
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