Background of the problem
It is known that the major economic costs from drugs use are due to incarcerations and crime rather than to drug use itself (Keefer, Loayza, & Soares, 2010). In Colombia, it is estimated that 20% of the cocaine and 70% of the marijuana produced is consumed domestically (Cawley, 2013), most of it in underground spots called ollas. The gathering of drug traffickers, addicts, and criminals in these places has spawned crime and insecurity in all cities. The Colombian government has tried some measures to reduce these externalities of drug use, but they have not been enough nor adequate.
In 2012, possession and consumption of minimal doses of marijuana and cocaine were decriminalized1. This was welcome by judicial authorities who saw it as a way to reduce incarcerations, taking into account that half of the detained in Colombia were captured for drug possession and consumption (Jaramillo & Jaramillo, 2012). Other sectors warned that decriminalization of drug use may increase consumption, microtraffic and insecurity (Gómez, 2012), and that the government should not cease the war on drugs.
In this line, the Police launched the “Operation Green Heart” in 2013 to intervene ollas. The operation have intervened 25 ollas out of more than 3.000 identified, and
1 The Law of Citizen Security of 2011 was declared partially unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, in the articles regarding incarceration and fees for possession of illicit drugs. The minimal dose was set to 22 gr for marijuana and 1 gr for cocaine.
its results so far have not been successful: it has barely displaced ollas and increased incarcerations without reducing consumption, microtraffic or crime (FIP, 2013).
... middle of paper ...
...nsumers that stay in the selling zones would be reduced so that drug traffickers can be geographically separated from them.
Regulated consumption centers would not eradicate microtraffic or crime completely, but they would definitively have a positive and significant impact on crime.
Given that law enforcement strategies to tackle ollas have not been successful and that uncontrolled drug use and crimes still arise in these places, we suggest the creation of regulated consumption centers to become alternative places where users could consume drugs. By separating consumers from drug traffickers, violence and crime in ollas surrounding areas would be reduced. At the same time, regulated consumption centers could become an instrument to deliver health and social services to addicts, so that Colombia could step into the path of harm reductions policies.
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