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Bogotá's Mayor Wants Seized Drugs Given to Addicts

Gustavo Petro hopes to reduce crime by allowing narcotics impounded by cops to be used by addicts in treatment centers.

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By McCarton Ackerman

09/26/12

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Ever wondered where drugs go once they've been seized by police? In Bogotá, they may end up going to addicts in treatment—at least that's what the city's mayor Gustavo Petro is gunning for with a new proposal that narcotics seized by police in raids would be given to residents of his proposed drug treatment centers. Petro's plan to reduce drug-related crime is to construct centers where drug addicts can consume illegal drugs that have passed laboratory tests to meet specific standards—provided that the addicts have a medical prescription and meet a strict set of criteria. The patients would simultaneously receive addiction treatment. However, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos calls the idea "irresponsible" and the director of the national police has said it isn't up to Petro to decide where the drugs end up. "The police can't give away the drugs. The police seize the drugs and give them to the judicial authorities, in this case the Prosecutor General," said the police director. Santos' comments are in notably sharp contrast to his approval last Friday for Petro's plan to prescribe illicit drugs to addicts in Bogota. "We will create physical spaces in the most violent zones of the city where the drug addicts, mostly youth, can get away from being illegal and dependent on the criminal gangs," said Petro. Santos ratified a law last month that called drug addiction a public health issue rather than a crime; Colombia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cocaine and pot earlier this year.

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