Colombia, the country known for its national fútbol team Los Cafeteros, or “The Coffee Growers,” may soon be growing a new crop of cannabis after a surprise executive decree from President Juan Manuel Santos. This announcement could be indicative of a policy shift from the country's longtime allies of the United States in the War on Drugs.
Colombia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs in 2012, opting for a more health-centric approach to drug policy. Citizens may possess up to 22 grams of cannabis or up to one gram of cocaine for personal use. In the event that they are caught in possession, they will not face arrest or prosecution but rather "may receive physical or psychological treatment" instead.
The government has announced plans to legalize the cultivation and sale of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. President Juan Manuel Santos' executive decree, which has yet to be signed into law, will regulate all aspects of a new medical marijuana program. Senator Juan Manuel Galan has also been a major proponent of legalizing cannabis cultivation for medicinal use, estimating that as many as 400,000 Colombian patients may benefit from a regulated medical marijuana market.
Once the president signs the executive decree into law, the Colombian government will license official growers for the program, even going so far as to consider the eventual exportation of Colombian-grown cannabis products.
This harkens back to the early days of grass cannabis, when Colombian Gold was known as the crème de la crème of marijuana and one of the best strains the black market could provide. Will legally imported Colombian Gold be coming soon to a dispensary or retail shop near you? In all reality, probably not. But we can dream, can’t we?