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Drug Use Legalized in Columbia

On May 5, 1994, Columbia's Constitutional Court (the equivalent of the US Supreme Court) voted five to four that a 1986 law permitting the arrest of someone for carrying a "personal dose" of drugs was a violation of the country's new constitution. Court president Jorge Arango explained that the penalty for possession of a personal drug dose "was a violation of individual rights and therefore contrary to the constitution." Arango added that the court's decision was made after much discussion and without taking into account the opinion of the United States.

US President Bill Clinton and Colombian President Cesar Gaviria both condemned the court ruling. Gaviria said a referendum and revision of the Colombian constitution should be considered. The court decision is expected to raise tensions between the US and Colombia, already high because of public statements by Colombian Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff favoring sweeping drug legalization; what the US sees as his leniency towards drug traffickers and his intervention on behalf of Dandeny Mufioz Mosquera, a Colombian on trial in the US for allegedly blowing up a Colombian airliner.

De Greiff has defended his position by saying that the war on drugs "has been a failure" and that legalization should be considered. He stated that drug legalization should not come piecemeal or one country at a time, but should be the result of international agreements. "If you legalize it, there will not be any business for the narco-traffickers," said de Greiff. "Consumption will be treated as a public health problem and a massive education campaign would try to dissuade people from using drugs. We should legalize drugs because we here [in Colombia] are providing the dead, and the consumers are there in the US."

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