Nothing dope about this law: Government proposes new crackdown on recreational drugs, irrespective of dose size

By Arjun Harindranath September 6, 2018

Medical marijuana

The Colombian government has proposed a new measure that would do away with allowed minimum doses of recreational drugs in public spaces.

Under the current law a person is permitted to carry up to 20g of marijuana, 5g of hashish, a gram of cocaine and 2 grams of Quaalude.

Citing the growing concern of micro-trafficking, whereby dealers only carry legal amounts to evade arrest, President Iván Duque has now proposed a measure that would allow the police to confiscate any amount of drugs on the person, irrespective of dosage. The exposure of drugs in areas where children are present were also presented as an argument for the proposed law.

The measure would only involve the seizure of the drug but would not result in criminal penalties of anyone that was in possession of the minimum doses. An appeal would be allowed but, if unsuccessful, the drugs will be destroyed according to the proposed law.

Unusually, the possession of the minimum dose would be allowed if the person were able to prove that they were an addict. It remains unclear how a person would be determined as an addict but the Minister of Justice Gloria María Borrero suggested last month to Semana magazine that a person could be medically certified as one. The Minister of Justice also suggested that one can prove their addiction with testimonies from their parents, Blu Radio Colombia reported.

“We are not penalizing the minimum dose. The decree that we will issue is an administrative measure that allows the seizure of the drug that is being carried or consumed by a citizen in public spaces,” the Minister of Justice tweeted. The Ministry also anticipates that the measure will decrease drug consumption.

Opponents have criticised the proposed measure, some insisting that the drug trade should be regulated and not policed. Colombia Humana leader Gustavo Petro tweeted that  “The jíbaro [dealer] on the corner isn’t going to change with this law, on the contrary, they will sell more drugs and make it more expensive.”

Many young people also took to social media to decry the proposed measure:

Cristhian Ayala tweeted that “today the president @ IvanDuque is going to push us back years in psychoactive substance policy, chasing the weakest link in the chain attacking minimum doses while the big mafias continue to profit from the ban.”

Meanwhile, Camilo Baldovino said “this idea of ​​giving more and more power to the police to control society is worthy of an underdeveloped country like Colombia. They warn us with [phrases like] ‘we do not want to be Venezuela’ but they also do not imitate the best European countries.”

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

But many also came out in favour of the measure, stating that it would clean up public spaces to the benefit of everyone:

“Those who do not consume must lock ourselves up at home because being in a park is unbearable, in practice the addict has more rights than me,” Miguel Junieles tweeted.

The proposed measure also indicates a sharp shift from Duque’s predecessor Juan Manuel Santos who had pushed for more decriminalisation of recreational drugs as a way to curb trafficking. Santos had also ushered in the incoming “bloom” of medical marijuana industry by allowing licences to companies to grow marijuana for the purpose research or cannabis oils for medicinal use.  

Meanwhile, the public will now have until 18 September to have their say on the draft measure. The measure will then be posed before Congress which will decide on whether it becomes law.

Do you think recreational drugs at the minimum doses should be seized by the police? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.