Colombian Senate falls short in bid to legalize recreational marijuana – for now

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Colombia’s Senate failed to approve a legal framework to regulate recreational marijuana sales, making it the latest country to fall short in a bid to bring illegal cannabis sales into the regulatory fold.

A majority of Senators actually voted to approve the measure – with 47 in favor and 43 opposed – but the bill’s proponents required a minimum of 54 votes to advance the constitutional reform.

Colombia follows Germany, Israel, Mexico and New Zealand in having announced ambitious recreational cannabis plans, only to ultimately come up short – or present significantly scaled-back plans – for various reasons.

Experts have long warned overly optimistic cannabis executives that ending prohibition and regulating the production and sale of marijuana would take years and will vary from country to country.

This comes after Canadian cannabis producers spent – and lost – billions of dollars building out production capabilities around the world in markets where demand was still likely years or decades away.

Despite the close loss in Colombia’s Senate, the measure’s proponents say they’re not giving up.

“We have taken a giant step, four years of putting such a controversial issue at the top of the public agenda, of the public debate,” Liberal Party Senator Juan Carlos Lozada, who co-wrote the bill, told La Prensa Latina Media, an online news publication.

“I don’t consider this a defeat.”

Lozada said he plans to introduce the measure in the next legislative session.

If the bill is reintroduced in the fall, it will have to go through the same lengthy parliamentary process.

The bill is available here.

Matt Lamers can be reached at