Gustavo Petro, the newly elected President of Colombia, is talking about potentially legalizing cannabis during his first weeks in office.
In a summit with the country’s mayors during this past week, Petro talked about the perks of legalizing cannabis and possibly releasing those who have been incarcerated in relation to the drug.
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“Let’s see if by exporting cannabis we make a few dollars because in part of the world the drug is legal,” said Petro in a translation per Noticias RCN. “Why can’t the farmers from Cauca plant cannabis?,” he said, referring to a region in Colombia where farming is a big part of the business.
Petro compared Colombia’s possible cannabis market with that of Canada. He also called out the United States, using it as an example where cannabis is legal in almost half of the country.
Regarding those who’ve been incarcerated due to cannabis-related offenses, Petro said, “If we’re going to legalize cannabis, are we going to allow all of those people who’ve been imprisoned to remain in jail? Or is it time to release those people?”
This marks one of the first instances where Petro refers to cannabis by its name, and shares some of the benefits and consequences of legalizing the drug. In July, the Colombian senate introduced a legalization bill that provided a plan for legalizing the plant’s adult use and that could also provide some income for the country.
In Petro’s inaugural speech, he called for taking back drug policies that have long harmed the country and have caused deaths, and increased the drug problem all over Latin America. “For peace to be possible in Colombia, we need dialogue and understanding, to look for common paths and produce changes,” he said. “Peace is possible if you change, for example, the politics against drugs.”
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“It’s time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed,” he said. “Of course peace is possible. But it depends on current drug policies being substituted with strong measures that prevent consumption in developed societies.”
Petro was elected as President this past June 19th. He is the first President of Colombia to be a part of the left and is a polarizing figure, having been a part of M-19, a Colombian guerrilla group.