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  • Marijuana will soon be legal for medical and scientific purposes in Colombia.

    Marijuana will soon be legal for medical and scientific purposes in Colombia. | Photo: Reuters

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Senators decided not to wait for the president to follow through on a promise to legalize medical marijuana with an executive order.

One month after the government announced it would legalize by decree the medical use of marijuana in Colombia, senators approved a similar proposal in a plenary session on Friday.

The legislation will be debated in the Chamber of Representatives next year before it may become law.

According to the bill, the ministries of Justice, Health and Agriculture, gathered in the Council on Narcotics, will take charge of allocating licenses to marijuana cultivators.

Liberal Senator Juan Manuel Galan, who introduced the bill, argued that the measure will help millions of people who suffer from pain, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or cancer.

“Cannabis inhibits nausea, helps recovering appetite and quality of life; it relieves from pain,” he said after the vote. “Today, the patients won.”

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The bill was approved 46 to 6 in a vote following a long debate concerning its potential impact on drug trafficking. Former conservative President Alvaro Uribe, leader of the opposition, criticized it as a “disguise” for the future legalization of narcotics for recreational use in the country.

Uribe said the legislation should not be approved, but supported the government's decree to legalize marijuana's medical use, even though Minister of Justice Yesid Reyes confirmed that both initiatives had the same content.

On Nov. 13, President Juan Manuel Santos announced in an interview with the BBC that his government was going to legalize medical marijuana “in three or four days.” A month later, senators decided to stop waiting.

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