The cocaine trade has been devastating for Colombia. The largest producer of the drug in the world, responsible for a whopping 90 percent of global supplies, Colombia has been at the forefront of a decades-long ‘war on drugs’ in which thousands of Colombians have lost their lives. And despite all that, cocaine production in the country remains higher than ever.
But that could all be about to change. Colombia’s newly-elected government has announced a dramatic change in drug policy, saying it intends to decriminalise the cocaine trade.
So how will decriminalising coke benefit Colombia, you ask? Surely that’s only going to lead to more drugs on the streets? Well, according to the Washington Post, the move will be part of what’s being called a ‘global experiment’ and it’ll involve regulating the country’s cocaine production.
The idea is that a decriminalised market gives the government more control and takes the cocaine trade out of the hands of cartels, armed groups and other drug traffickers. Profits on the drug could then also be taxed to fund public services.
But that isn’t all. For decades, the Colombian government has targeted the coca plant, which cocaine is eventually produced from and which is often grown by poor rural farmers. The new drug policy would offer incentives for farmers to grow different crops, as well as end the destruction of the coca plant. The government will, however, still target the operations of drug traffickers.
To some extent, Colombia already has a more tolerant attitude towards cocaine than most countries. It’s currently legal to carry around up to a gram of the stuff – and it isn’t the only country to have a more lax policy on possession. From Argentina and Brazil to Greece and Portugal, plenty of countries around the world have decriminalised possession of cocaine for personal use.
As the official legislation hasn’t yet been laid out, it’s unclear whether Colombia’s decriminalisation laws would apply to people visiting the country. Current laws on cocaine possession do apply to tourists, though similar laws in other countries get a bit fuzzy when it comes to foreign nationals. Oh, and to be really, really clear, we do not condone anyone planning a coke-fuelled trip to Colombia. Obviously.
So will Colombia’s efforts to regulate its cocaine industry actually work? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. In any case, it’s certainly a bold move. The exact details of the decriminalisation policies are expected to be announced in the coming months.
Did you see that there’s a load of rampaging cocaine hippos in Colombia?