Updates from Colombia

As you probably know, the illegal drug trade is a major problem in Columbia. Colombia is the leading producer of cocaine in the world and it supplies more than 90 percent of the cocaine found in the United States. Crime related to drugs is the second highest cause of death in the country, and although the government of Colombia has tried to put a stop to cocaine production, efforts have been largely ineffective. In addition, growing coca (the plant used to make cocaine) is often the most lucrative means for peasant farmers to earn enough money to feed their families.

Recently, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that people cannot be jailed for possession of cocaine and marijuana in amounts considered for personal use. Under this decision, a personal dose is considered to be up to 20 grams of marijuana and up to one gram of cocaine. Any person caught with less than those amounts cannot be prosecuted or detained.

This ruling is in keeping with the current trend in countries in Latin American and Europe such as Uruguay, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Portugal to no longer treat people who use drugs as criminals who need to be imprisoned. Instead of jail time, people would receive physical or psychological treatment.

Decriminalizing drug possession has been shown to reduce arrests of drug users, decrease opportunities for police corruption at a lower level, and allow police to focus on more serious crimes. Furthermore, individuals and communities are able to respond to addiction as a health matter as opposed to a criminal issue. Based on previous studies, the levels of illicit drug use change little as a result of decriminalization.

Source: “Colombia Decriminalizes Cocaine and Marijuana, As Latin American Momentum for Drug Policy Reform Continues” by Ethan Nadelmann for The Huffington Post

We have 4 artisan partners in Colombia: Uniqueland, Chocofibres, CREATA, and Opitagua. Due to the internal conflict in Colombia, there are very high numbers of refugees and internally displaced peoples. Many indigenous communities are negatively affected by this displacement and are forced to give up their traditional ways of living. Producing handcrafted goods provides a sustainable livelihood for some of these people. Support our partners in Colombia and view their handcrafted products here.

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