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News > Latin America

Colombia Moves to Rescind Liberal Drug Possession Laws

  • Colombian President Ivan Duque

    Colombian President Ivan Duque | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 September 2018

Colombian President Duque said he would empower authorities to "confiscate any dose of drugs or hallucinogens on the streets."

Colombian President Ivan Duque announced new measures that would enable police to confiscate small doses of drugs that were previously legalized for personal use.

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Speaking at an event Sunday in the Santander province, the South American head of state said he is keeping “one of the promises ... made to Colombians in the (presidential) campaign” by reversing laws passed by his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos that aimed to decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use.

“This week I'll sign the decree through which, in development of police code 02 of the 2009 legislative act, we will give the authorities tools to confiscate any dose of drugs or hallucinogens on the streets of Colombia. This way we will combat the root cause of micro-trafficking,” said Duque.

He also explained that the Ministries of Health and Justice would work together to target micro-trafficking in schools to eliminate potential threats to Colombian families, according to Colombia Reports.

Activist and drug policy expert Julian Quintero condemned the "unconstitutional" move.

“The decree will bring many lawsuits because it goes against the Constitution where the carrying and consumption of a minimum dose is allowed. ... Any measure made on the subject of drugs and increases penalties or restrictions is a step backward. The world today is moving towards making drug policies more flexible in order to contain the market. When we approve a decree like the one proposed by Duque, the only thing we achieve is to look more like countries like the Philippines or China where there is a death penalty for people who use drugs. On the other hand, we no longer look like countries like Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, or the Europeans which do more to protect people’s rights."

Colombia's Supreme Court paved the way for legislative liberalization of drug laws when it ruled in 2011 that strict anti-drug laws introduced by the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe were unconstitutional.

To fill the legislative void created by the court’s ruling, the administration of Juan Manuel Santos introduced bills decriminalizing small quantities of drug possession as part of its 2011 Citizen Security Law, or law 1453.

In 2012, Colombia’s Constitutional Court approved a government bill to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana and cocaine for personal use.

Duque’s predecessor repeatedly called for a change in approach regarding the so-called war on drugs, advocating policies consistent with the protection of human rights, which doesn't criminalize consumers.

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