Colombian president tightens anti-drug laws

Bogota (AFP) –


Colombia's newly-elected president Ivan Duque signed a decree Monday cracking down on drug consumption following an "alarming increase" in domestic abuse of substances.

The decree will allow police to confiscate even minimum doses of marijuana, decriminalized in the South American country since 1994.

"We are signing a decree that gives tools to the police to remove drugs from the streets of our cities, and of course, to destroy any dose," said Duque as he signed the decree at the presidential palace.

Under the decree, even legal amounts of drugs can now be confiscated during police pat-downs in public areas, and the drugs will only be returned if the user can prove an addiction.

The law in Colombia, the world's largest producer of cocaine, allows the possession of up to a gram of cocaine for personal use, and up to 20 grams of marijuana.

However, buying and selling of drugs is illegal.

Civil liberty groups hit out at the decree as "inefficient and costly" and said it did not differentiate between "problematic consumption and occasional or recreational consumption."

"It does not contribute to the solution of the drug problem and, on the contrary, it promoted discrimination and stigmatization of the people who use it," rights group DeJusticia said.

Although the majority of cocaine produced in Colombia is smuggled to the United States and Europe, authorities have reported increasing domestic consumption of the drug.

The president justified the decree saying there had been "an alarming increase in consumption" of drugs in Colombia, though he gave no figures.

Duque, a conservative who was inaugurated on August 7, campaigned strongly on upholding traditional family values and cracking down on drug trafficking and consumption.