Together with the Cannabis News Network, Martin Jelsma travelled to Colombia to report on the newly emerging medical cannabis industry in the country, specifically looking at the impacts of private investment and licensing on farmers and indigenous communities.
From 16 to 18 October 2019, representatives of member states, intergovernmental organisations, and civil society attended the 6th Intersessional Meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. On 17 October 2019, representatives of coca and opium growers from Colombia and Myanmar delivered statements highlighting the situation of communities involved in the illicit cultivation of coca and opium in both countries. Below are their full statements.
Getting to the Briceño region in the heart of Antioquia requires an excellent vehicle, and a lot of time and luck. The week before our journey there in mid-July, heavy rains wiped out part of the road between Briceño and Pueblo Nuevo, stranding folks on one side or the other. We were lucky on the day of our journey – no rain. But it took a six-hour drive to get from Medellín to Briceño, and another three hours of sometimes harrowing curves to Pueblo Nuevo. The dirt-road drive itself was a stark reminder of the challenges Colombia faces as it seeks to eliminate 50,000 hectares of coca this year through the crop substitution program, Programa Nacional Integral de Sustitución de Cultivos de Uso Ilícito (National Comprehensive Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops), known by the acronym PNIS.
In a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a global network of 177 NGOs, expresses strong support for the Peace Accord signed by the Colombian government and the FARC, while also expressing deep concern regarding intensified, and increasingly militarized, forced coca eradication efforts, especially in areas where communities have already signed crop substitution agreements.
For 37 years Colombia has been spraying chemicals to combat illicit crops, particularly coca. These massive eradication programmes became part of the US-backed 'War on Drugs'. The fumigations are controversial for their proven inefficacy to reduce supply and demand for the use of herbicides such as glyphosate.
Alternative Development programmes have been widely discussed from the point of view of experts, technocrats, politicians and academics, with advocates and detractors debating whether such programmes contribute to decreasing the cultivation of illegal crops. However, little is known about the opinions of the people targeted by these programmes and the implications that they have for their daily lives.