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Colombia Senate Votes Down Recreational Marijuana Bill

BOGOTA, June 21 (Reuters) – Colombia’s Senate voted down a measure to approve the sale of recreational cannabis to adults late on Tuesday, although supporters including the government of leftist President Gustavo Petro said they would continue to pursue legalization.

The South American country already allows some cannabis derived products, such as oils and creams, to be made and sold for medicinal uses, while legislation passed in the 1980s and 1990s allows consumption and the cultivation of up to 20 plants.

But sales of the drug for recreational purposes are illegal and opponents of legalization celebrated the bill’s defeat as ensuring the protection of children and families.

Uruguay, Canada and some states in the U.S. allow the sale of recreational marijuana. Despite the legality of medicinal cannabis, investors have long complained about what they say is Colombia’s tortuous export approval process.

The bill would have restricted the use and sale of cannabis and its derived products in schools and universities and placed limits on public consumption.

Backers including Interior Minister Luis Fernando Velasco said recreational marijuana’s continued illegality only benefits criminals.

“From the government we will insist on this issue,” Velasco said in quotes shared by the Senate on Twitter.

Liberal Party representative Juan Carlos Losada had said the proposed law would save lives, protecting consumers from interactions with criminals.

“We didn’t know we’d get so far. We have majorities, we lacked seven votes,” he tweeted after the vote on the bill, which needed 54 votes in favor and won 47, with 43 against.

Meanwhile, an ambitious health reform which caused the breakdown of Petro’s once-broad congressional coalition will carry over to the new legislative session in July, on the back of a May approval by a committee in the lower house.

A pension reform proposal also won committee approval, while a labor reform will need to be proposed from scratch after its first debate in the lower house did not reach quorum.

Source : Reuters