Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday signed a decree fully legalizing medical marijuana [press release, in Spanish] in the country. Santos said the new regulations, which make it legal to grow, process, import and export marijuana for medical and scientific use, would put Colombia “at the forefront in the fight against disease.” Santos stressed that the new regulations would not detract from Colombia’s fight against illegal drugs: “the medicinal use of cannabis does not go counter to our international commitments in the field of drug control.” Medical marijuana had previously been permitted in Colombia by a 1986 law but was never formally regulated [BBC report]. The new regulations are expected to have a broad impact on the medical marijuana industry, as they make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture and export drugs derived from the plants.
Marijuana legalization remains controversial but is becoming more widespread in Latin America. Last month the Mexico Supreme Court ruled that four individuals will be allowed to grow and smoke marijuana [JURIST report]. The court held that it is unconstitutional to prohibit the growth of marijuana for personal use, but the ruling was narrow and only applied to the individuals who were party to the case. Nevertheless, this decision marks a significant step in the potential path for full legalization of marijuana in Mexico. Uruguay legalized [JURIST report] the production and sale of marijuana in 2013. Colombia decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug in 2012. In 2009 Argentina’s highest court ruled that possession of small amounts of marijuana for private, personal consumption that does not endanger or harm third parties is not punishable by law [JURIST report].