Could marijuana solve Colombia's crack cocaine problem?
That's the hope of city officials in Bogota, who are contemplating a novel solution to a dangerous drug epidemic.
BBC Mundo reports that the city is planning a system of "controlled consumption centers," where addicts could be weaned off more hard-core drugs, such as heroin or crack, and slowly introduced to pot.
Although Colombia has successfully cracked down on its drug export business, many native Colombians are addicted to drugs, including the highly addictive cocaine derivative known as basuco, Agence France-Presse previously reported.
Basuco is smokable cocaine that is easily accessible and often gives users a euphoric high. It can also cause serious damage to vital organs.
Because of its continued prevalence, as well as its toxicity, basuco will be one of the drugs targeted by Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro's planned treatment centers, according to BBC Mundo. The treatment centers are part of a larger movement in Colombia to classify drug addiction as an issue of public health rather than crime, AFP noted in 2012.
"We're in the process of looking for alternatives to a policy that, over 30 years, has caused deaths, has caused problems and has caused economic and public health difficulties and social problems in Colombia," Rubén Ramírez, director of the Center for Study and Analysis in Coexistence and Public Safety, told BBC Mundo. "And among the ideas is one to do a pilot study on the substitution of [marijuana for cocaine]."
The initiative could be implemented within two months and would be used to study the effectiveness of marijuana on reducing and alleviating withdrawal symptoms in addicts who want to kick their cocaine or heroine habits.
In the United States, several studies have shown that moderate marijuana use has helped cocaine and opioid addicts stay in treatment.
However, as ABC News reports, this type of treatment isn't likely to gain steam in the U.S. soon.
"Unfortunately, universities rely on grants from the federal government for research, so most of what they do is what the feds want done," Amanda Reiman, a policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance, told ABC News. "As you can probably guess, the feds are not too interested in beneficial uses for marijuana, and even less interested in how to help people who are addicted to substances, so most of the research in this area occurs outside the U.S. or through private funding."
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The UNODC estimates that 2.8-4.5% of the global population aged 15-64 used cannabis in 2009. According to the report, cannabis is by far the most widely used illicit substance. <em>The Weed Fairy, left, smokes a massive marijuana joint right at 4:20 p.m. as thousands take part in the annual marijuana 420 smoke off at Dundas Square in Toronto on Friday, April 20, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)</em>
The UNODC estimates that 0.3-1.3% of the global population aged 15-64 used amphetamines, such as ecstasy, making it the second most used drug in the world.
The UNODC estimates that 0.5-0.8% of the global population aged 15-64 used opioids, such as heroin, in 2009, making it the third most used drug in the world. <em>A Pakistani drug user prepares a syringe of a heroin along a street in Karachi on June 25, 2012. (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/GettyImages)</em>
The UNODC estimates that 0.3-0.5% of the global population aged 15-64 used cocaine in 2009. <em>Anti-narcotics police Director Walter Sanchez, left, holds a bag of seized cocaine with an unidentified official during a news conference showing an estimated 2,400 kilograms (5,300 pounds) of seized cocaine at the narcotics police base in Lima, Peru, Friday, May 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)</em>