For decades, Colombia has been regarded as home to the world's most violent drug trafficking organizations. The United States spent billions to help stamp out this predicament. Now, a new law signed by President Juan Manuel Santos legalizes the growing and sale of medical marijuana.

The president insisted that he is not backing out in stamping out illegal drug trafficking groups in the country. Amid the hurdles the country is facing in terms of drug trafficking, he said that he wants to place Colombia in the frontline of the battle against disease.

He passed the decree to take advantage of the benefits of medical marijuana in improving the lives of people.

"Let's be clear, allowing the medicinal use of cannabis doesn't go against our international commitment regarding the control of drugs and, even less so, against our policy of fighting drug trafficking," President Santos said during a ceremony beside Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria.

The country decriminalized the manufacture, export, sale and use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes but up to date, no regulations were established. The law will issue licenses for possession of marijuana seeds and establishment of farms for the plant. This is only applicable to those who will grow plants exclusively for medical purposes.

"What we're seeking is for patients to be able to get access to drugs produced locally that are safe, of high quality and accessible. This is also an opportunity to promote scientific research in (Colombia)," President Santos added.

With its new law signed, Colombia joins many states in the United States and countries like Finland, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, and Israel. President Santos reiterated that the new decree covers medical and scientific purposes only and cannabis cannot be used for recreational purposes.

Medical marijuana received a lot of praises for its wide array of health benefits. It is known to treat difficult diseases like childhood epilepsy, seizures, cancer and even the side effects of chemotherapy. It also increases the appetite of people suffering from Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and its complication, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

It is dubbed as a new treatment option for difficult-to-treat conditions like glaucoma, lung cancer, Dravet's Syndrome (severe seizure disorder), Alzheimer's disease, Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis.

Marijuana contains 60 active ingredients known as cannabinoids. Two potent chemicals delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana's main mind-altering ingredient, and cannabidiol (CBD), are dubbed as the ingredients responsible for the health benefits of cannabis.

THC is a potent chemical responsible in reducing pain and inflammation. Aside from its analgesic effects, it is a potent antiemetic compound that prevents nausea and vomiting. CBD, on the other hand, is responsible in curbing epileptic seizures. About 400,000 Colombians suffering from epilepsy and other diseases will be benefited by the new policy.

Photo: James St. John | Flickr

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