Colombia marijuana
At least 7 people have been hospitalized downtown after consuming what police called a “bad batch” of synthetic marijuana "Spice." REUTERS/Fredy Builes

The Colombian government, long a U.S. ally in the war on drugs, is set to legalize medical marijuana by executive order, the Pan Am Post reported. The bill, which will legalize marijuana only for medicinal and scientific reasons, has passed through Congress and is due to soon receive final approval from President Juan Manuel Santos, Justice Minister Yesid Reyes announced Thursday.

Despite the move being perceived by proponents and critics alike as a sign of the government’s shifting attitudes toward marijuana use and legalization, Reyes was firm that recreational use of the drug is still out of the question. “Nobody is talking about legalizing anything except for these two purposes,” he said.

The decree will also allow for the creation of an “export license” issued by the National Council on Drugs, which will grant producers the right to sell cannabis-based medical products in countries where they’re legal, such as Uruguay, Canada and the Netherlands. The step has been hailed as a sign of recognition by the Colombian government that the local cannabis industry could have global economic potential.

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The decree follows another bill Congress passed in October that approved the sale of all medical products containing marijuana, coca or poppy as their base. It also follows similar efforts in Mexico and Chile, which have recently adopted legalization and decriminalization policies.

The government’s announcement surprised many Colombians, who have long been watching their country undergo violent clashes between drug traffickers and militarized police forces, TeleSUR reported. But the move has not come without its critics, such as the conservative Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez, who said he will review the government’s decree because it “weakens the fight against drugs and threatens the young, children and families in every part of the country.”