After the Uribe government (2002-2010), new political figures have emerged opening up a climate for a more liberal approach to drugs.
Many figures are increasingly becoming frustrated by the traditional US insistence on eradication, epitomised by Colombia withdrawing its objection to Bolivia’s reforms to significant US disapproval. This is of vital importance to remedy the drug law ‘back-sliding’ that took place during the Uribe administration.
1974 – Colombia approves and implements the 1961 UN Convention and establishes regime of prohibition.
1986 – National Drug Control legislation implemented, underlines marijuana as an illicit substance and defines prevention campaigns and control mechanisms (including penal categories) for the manufacturing, importation and distribution of illicit substances.
1994 – Constitutional court declares punishment of possession of certain quantities for personal home consumption as unconstitutional (20g marijuana, 1g cocaine etc).
2009 – Having attempted for years to re-penalise personal use, President Uribe amends the Constitution to prohibit drug use and possession (although only administrative sanctions are applicable).
2011 – President Santos declares himself open to a discussion on decriminalisation if it will decrease violence and criminality. On February 12 2011 President Santos of Colombia said: “Decriminalization is an alternative that we can discuss. I am not opposed to any formula that is effective, and if the world decides to legalise and thinks that that is how we reduce violence and crime, I could go along with that.” In late July, the government declares their intention to debate and present to Congress a new Drug Statute. This legislation is adapted from the 1986 Statute to bring in new synthetic drugs, reduce demand and production, strengthen institutions and combat the economic infrastructure of drug trafficking. Certain political figures, lead by Senator Juan Manuel Galán, have also been increasingly claiming that drugs should be viewed as a public-health issue.
In 2012, there is increasing debate on legalizing or decriminalizing drug consumption. Colombia’s chief public prosecutor has called for a referendum on whether to legalise drug consumption, in response to plans to set up a network of public centres where users can consume illicit drugs under supervision.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s constitutional court ruled in June that people cannot be jailed for possessing cocaine and marijuana for personal use.
At the UN General Assembly meeting in September this year, President Santos called for a frank and and global debate on drugs, stressing the need of analysis and discussion of the effectiveness of ‘the so-called “War on Drugs”, and the possible alternatives to it’. This makes Colombia emblematic of the increasing mood of change in Latin America.