Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s newly elected President, attended the United Nations meeting on Tuesday and made his stance clear on the topic of marijuana and drugs. He urged responsible parties to take a stance against the war on drugs and said that democracy in the American continent would die if this issue wasn’t addressed.
Petro gave a speech before the UN’s General Assembly, where he shared the failings of the War on Drugs.
“The war on drugs has lasted 40 years. If we do not correct the course, and this continues another 40 years, the United States will see 2.8 million die of overdoses,” said Petro. “You will see millions of African Americans be imprisoned in their private prisons.”
When speaking about Colombia and its history with the War on Drugs, he said, “I propose to you, as President of one of the most beautiful and bloodied countries on Earth, to end the War on Drugs and thus allow our people to live in peace.”
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In an interview with GZERO, Petro talked about US-Colombia relations, one that has lasted decades and that will be undergoing some changes now that Colombia has a leftist President. He said the American government’s attitude towards drugs was like “a slow animal.”
“Great transformations don’t happen overnight,” he said, implying that a bigger effort from other nations, mainly those in Latin America, was necessary. Still, he said Biden’s attitude toward drugs has been more open than in previous administrations.
In the past, Petro has discussed the possibility of legalizing marijuana and creating a functioning market for it, comparing Colombia to Canada. “Let’s see if by exporting cannabis we make a few dollars because in part of the world the drug is legal,” said Petro, per Noticias RCN. “Why can’t the farmers from Cauca plant cannabis?,” he said, referring to a region in Colombia where farming is the principal way where residents make their living.
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Petro also talked about releasing prisoners that were jailed for cannabis offenses. “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?” he said.
Gustavo Petro was elected as President on June 19, and is a polarizing figure, having past ties with guerrilla group M-19.