Bogota Colombia has a problem. They have 7,500 people addicted to cocaine who are turning areas of the city into dead zones where addicts mix with the cities other homeless. These users are hurting businesses and turning to crime to fund their habit. In an attempt to stop this, the cities government is planning to supply cocaine addicts with cannabis as a way to wean them off the cocaine.
Most of the 300 people selected for the initial trial are addicted to bazuco, a cocaine derivative that is cheaper than pure cocaine and as addictive as heroin.
The goal is to help addicts end their addiction to bazuco but also to stem the tide of crime the drug has created. In the last three years, 277 homeless people have been murdered according to Ruben Dario Ramirez, the director of the Center for the Study and Analysis of Coexistence and Security, which is leading the way on the new project.
“People accuse us of turning bazuco addicts into marijuana addicts but that’s an urban myth,” he said. “This program is about reducing personal harm and the risks to society.”
He believes that for those who are trapped by their addiction, cannabis may be the only effective harm reduction strategy.
This plan is drawing sharp criticism from many including Augusto Perez, the director of Nuevo Rumbos, A Colombian think tank on drug addiction. He said, “This plan is completely absurd. It’s as if they didn’t know that everyone who smokes bazuco already smokes marijuana. By giving them marijuana, all they will be doing is saving the (addicts) money so they can buy more bazuco.”
He believes there is no chance of the new plan working.
Supporters argue that much of the medical profession is simply stuck in the mindset that cannabis is bad. They said that, while abstinence is a proven treatment method, the cannabis project is not aimed at getting people to quit. The goal is to reduce the harm on addicts and the community while allowing users to better function in society.
This type of hard drug alternative scheme has already been used in Canada, Brazil and Jamaica. While it may not be a replacement for proper counselling and treatment, it could mitigate the damage and provide a way to start rebuilding the community.