The United States is still ahead of the pack in terms of states with full medical marijuana legalization, but other countries are making headway in the struggle to provide access to life-changing medicine for people with chronic conditions. Colombia is now poised to become the latest country to allow for complete legal use of medicinal cannabis by those with a doctor's approval.
Colombia and the War on Drugs
During the 1970s, Colombia became associated with the illegal drug trade, as a number of notorious cartels were based there. It was discovered that criminals in the country were smuggling large quantities of marijuana and cocaine into the United States for sale on the streets. With the Reagan-era push to battle drugs, Colombia became an important partner, helping the U.S. apprehend members of the Medellin and Cali drug cartels. Even today, Colombia is considered an important partner in the continued war on drugs, as it's estimated that there are still roughly 300 drug smuggling groups located within the South American country's borders.
The Colombia Legislation
Because of Colombia's role in helping the U.S. fight the drug trade, many people were surprised to learn that the Colombian government was considering legalizing medicinal cannabis. In November, the Congress of Colombia voted in favor of a bill that would make marijuana legal to use for medical treatments, as well as for scientific research. Only the signature of President Juan Manuel Santos was needed to make the bill a law, and most experts believed that the President fully supported the bill.
The Other Impact of the Bill
One of the main reasons that Colombia became an epicenter for illegal drug trade is that marijuana is rather easy to grow in the South American nation, due to its terrain and climate. The bill passed by the Congress also allows for marijuana to be grown within the country, specifically for the purposes of selling it to countries where medicinal marijuana is legal, or cannabis is fully legalized, such as the Netherlands, Canada, and Uruguay.
The medical cannabis legalization bill out of Colombia was proceeded by a bill that allows for the legal sale of medications that contain poppy as a base. Previously, these types of medications were illegal, because poppies can be used to produce opium and heroin. Advocates for marijuana legalization in the U.S. view the move by the Colombian government as promising. It reflects the fact that the stigma of marijuana use is beginning to be lifted, and potentially paves the way for similar legislation in other countries, including the U.S.